14 February 2011

Bulletins from the front: deep cuts, unplanned cuts, malicious cuts?

Services being cut…the vulnerable becoming yet more vulnerable…..those who work in public services nervously eyeing the post for the ‘your job is at risk’ notification. Oh, and one public toilet in Manchester. We live in times of concern, worry and uncertainty – well, we do if we are concerned with the welfare of others.

But we knew this was coming; the swing away from investing in the population was going to come at some point (I still haven’t made my mind up if all that spending was ok, being as it came at the apparent cost of letting the City do whatever it pretty much fancied for over a decade). 

The decisions and beliefs lieing behind the reductions in public spending are surely more ideological than practical, despite the protestations to the contrary. I can live with that. Some of us have seen the swing from investment in the population, via increases in spend on hospitals, schools, housing – well, social housing services if not bricks and mortar – and the swing back to cuts, cuts, cuts. What does appall me is the subsequent response from the public sector itself. 

Working in the world of Supporting People I’ve seen the budget swell larger each year – until this year, with massive cuts apparently required, a series of reductions now have to be made. From the apparent top to bottom of the local government I can see in action the rationale behind what goes and what stays is  and, ….well, frankly, the playground can see more sophisticated decision making processes. 

We have a reduction in the number of staff in the team – but is this based on any kind of reasoned approach, a setting of priorities for the programme that needs a particular set of individuals with the right skills, expertise and knowledge to make the best use of limited resources? 

Guessing you know the answer to that. No, of course not. The whole element of measuring service quality, the staff that actually have contact with the people who use services and those who work every day in those services – looks like its going to be gone baby, gone. 

We’ll still be counting numbers though. We’ll be able to tell you how many,and where. Just not what’s actually going on for people, whether the service is actually making a difference or, worse, whether the service is safe or not. 

It just gets better. In my naïve reasonings (hah!), I had considered that a thoughtful and planned approach to cutting Housing Support Services would be adopted, with thought about which service for which individuals would have the most consequences if they were reduced – or, in many floating support services in our County, gone altogether. 

But again – no. Actually cuts are being made with no rationale and reason. Except that sometimes it seems to take the form of malice. A sense of old scores being settled prevails at times. And I am all too aware that any discussion about the people living in these services, those who are being supported in situations where there is no other support available – there is no thought for them, none that I have seen. I just see a ruthlessness by some to keep their own jobs intact, at any cost. This isn’t what I came in for.

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