Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


The people of Burma have suffered greatly under the appalling rule of the military junta but there is a chink of light in the freedom of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. There is a small but very lively Anglican Church in Burma, with a strong following amongst the Karen in particular. I have visited them on a number of occasions and have known a number of the previous Archbishops. Indeed I was at the consecration of Archbishop Andrew a decade ago. 

My family provided money to buy a paddy field which provides rice for the students at St John's boarding school.  It cuts the cost of buying rice and by the looks of the photo below my mother received it looks like a good crop. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


One thing I learnt from my time in the big move from institutional to community care in mental health in Lambeth (Tooting Bec) in the 80s was the need to ensure the voice of the client, carers and families are heard.

I know that my recent blog post caused concern because it implied only the providers have the answers and that we already had the worked up plan.  I know that the issues raised from Winterbourne View, and what has happened since, are of deep concern, and I'm sorry that my blog caused upset. It was certainly not my intention. A sin of omission not commission.

None of the providers have all the answers.  But along with others they are clearly part of the answer and we now have an opportunity to work together to develop solutions that meet the needs of people with learning disability, their families and carers.

We have our first meeting of the Steering Group on developing a new national framework for learning disability care on Monday. We have a tight timetable. And as with any group we will need a strong focus on outcomes and a relentless drive that ensures the plans deliver better outcomes for people with learning difficulties.

Speaking to Philipa Bragman of Change ( yesterday she stressed the culture change needed in the way services and support are delivered to people with learning disability.  Change is a leading national human rights organisation led by disabled people. Based in Leeds they have employed people with learning disabilities. She told me about their experience of a co-working model of employment which means people with learning disabilities co lead on projects with non learning disability people on equal terms and pay.

I contacted Vivien Cooper of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation ( as a number of people suggested she could connect me to people I need to engage with.

As Vivien wrote on her website,

"I hope that this group will be an opportunity to address the lack of progress so far and to overcome the significant barriers. We know what needs to be done, and we get it right for some people – it cannot be beyond us to all to work together to deliver the outcomes we want to see.”

I wrote last week to members of the national Forum and had a lively discussion with Gavin Harding (Voices for People - who will Co-Chair a new DH assurance group with Norman Lamb MP.  He was keen to work with us to get positive change. Alongside that I have written to the families of people who were at Winterbourne View

One of the ideas put forward is a forum, where we can bring together all the stakeholders in a Summit so we can discuss the steering group's ideas and plans as they develop. There has been support from many people for this approach.  Gavin made the point we must do this so we can practically discuss how we can work together on the task.

The whole country was shocked by the serious abuse and appalling standards of care at Winterbourne View.  Without a detailed plan and collective action, progress on putting this right has slipped. Three years on, there has been hardly any movement towards helping vulnerable people with learning disabilities move into local communities.

It’s a scandal that only a third of the people who were in the so called Assessment and Treatment Centres last April have been transferred out and that even today, more people are being sent into them than are being discharged.

So, our focus as a steering group over these next 3 months must be how we can provide a national framework for local delivery which will ensure the pledge that was made is honoured.

I hope that people will want to work together – and will share their knowledge, expertise and experience to shape what we do and how we do it. I know that if we don’t do this, we will have wasted an opportunity.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Nick Hurd’s legacy

Well it’s been a busy week at ACEVO and in Downing Street. I had a good conversation with our new Minister for Civil Society on Wednesday. He has a strong record on finance and in charity – having founded his own charity in 2010. He is particularly interested in the power of social finance, and he will be speaking at an ACEVO fringe event on this topic at the Conservative Party Conference. At ACEVO we are keen to see progress on the role of civil society in public service delivery and I look forward to working with him on this in future.

But that said, it is sad to see Nick Hurd leave the post. He leaves OCS as the longest-serving Minister for Civil Society, and with an excellent record behind him on National Citizen Service, the Community First Fund and much more. He was widely respected on all sides of the sector as you can see from the plaudits that have come in this week.

I was interested to read Nick’s full resignation letter to the Prime Minister which conveys the range of his achievements and of his continued interest in the power of Britain’s civil society.

The comprehensive letter – which reads more like a handover note – points particularly to the importance in the next few years of making it easier for charities and social enterprises to properly participate in public service delivery. Nick recognises the crucial importance of access to social finance – which government still must improve on. He also points to the massive untapped potential of social value-based commissioning:

There is of course much more that can be done to make it easier for social entrepreneurs and socially responsible businesses to create social value. The Social Value Act was a useful start but cannot be the end of our efforts to encourage intelligent  commissioning from a diverse market of suppliers, including charities, public sector mutuals and social enterprises. We have yet to unlock the full value that they can add in helping us tackle some of the most stubborn social challenges that undermine the  country. It is hard to see us meeting the challenge of delivering ‘better with less’ without our social economy fully engaged.”

So here is some useful advice for our sector and for Brooks as he steps in to post. Lots to develop on social value and on financing our sector’s social ambitions. And let’s not forget the importance too of protecting our right to speak out. We have just two months now before the Lobbying Act kicks in. The chilling effect is already being felt. A good letter in the Times this week by our friends at Bond put the urgency of the matter in clear terms. Its words should speak for us all.

“We and many others call for the act to be replaced by one which regulates party-political lobbying while safeguarding civil society’s right to speak out.  As it is, the Lobbying Act is a threat to a healthy democracy.”

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ave et Vale

So it’s hail Brooks Newmark and farewell Nick Hurd.

I think the fact there has been such a strong response from sector leaders paying tribute to Nick says a lot about how well he has done his job. He cared about the health of our sector, and avoided the political extremes inhabited by some in Parliament on both sides who want to relegate us to the margins.

I always enjoyed talking to Nick. I'm sure he always thoroughly enjoyed my helpful texts of advice and occasional expletives about "developments". He was a strong supporter of social finance and did much to promote it. He should also be remembered for his acts of omission. He refused to get sucked into the nonsense of CEO pay and refused to attack charity campaigning. He lived by his mantra of "do no harm".

So his final advice to me about Brooks (he'll forgive me for repeating his text I'm sure) was "Good guy. Bright. A good listener. Nice and genuine. Business background. Think you will get on despite everything I tell him about you!"

And I also had a great intro to Brooks from Crispin Blunt MP who is on my SIB Board and who also gave him a strong write up.

He said he was, “imaginative, open minded and convinced by argument. Not a zealot".

Finally, though he is relatively unknown to us at present my Deputy, Ash Singh, knows him and some of his team and he likewise tells me good things about him. Harvard and Oxford. Involvement with various charities, including one he set up.  Work in Rwanda. Treasury whip. This bodes very well.

And I speak to him today. I shall remind him of some of his illustrious predecessors. Indeed one Party Leader began his ministerial career as the first third sector Minister, so the auguries may be good for us all hearing much more about Brooks. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Winterbourne View Concordat and Bubb's challenge

I was surprised. I had gone for a meeting with Simon Stevens, the new NHS England Chief. As with all such meetings, I had my requests. But instead he got there first. "I have three asks", he announced.

The first was what the third sector could do to support the implementation of the Government's pledge on Winterbourne.  Following the Winterbourne View scandal, the Government promised to move all learning disability clients out of inappropriate in-patient facilities into the community. The appalling abuse of people with learning disabilities exposed by the Panorama programme in Winterbourne View, an institution meant to care for them had shocked a nation. Norman Lamb MP, the Health Minister rightly said that not only must there be serious consequences for the Winterbourne View abusers, but that there were also wider issues in the care system that needed to be addressed. In particular, he insisted that all clients in inappropriate in-patient settings should be cared for near their families and in community settings. It was a courageous move.

Sadly, the pledge that those people would be moved by 1st June this year was not met. Not only has that not happened but there are now more people in such placements.  Simon Stevens was clear that only the third sector could deliver the promise and he wanted me to look at a plan for "co-commissioning" between the NHS and my members.

A challenge, clearly, but one I was  up for. I gathered together my top provider members in learning disability for a breakfast to discuss our options . They were enthusiastic for the task; people like Jan Tregelles of Mencap, Steve James of Avenues Group, Robert Longley-Cook of HFT, Mark Lever of NAS, the indomitable Su Sayer of United Response and Ben Rick of the Social Investment Business.

Turning words and talk into a plan requires some skill. Fortunately I have the team at ACEVO that can do this. Mark Winter, my multi-talented Head of Health Commissioning wrote up our Plan on the back of that breakfast, which we characterised as a "national framework, locally delivered".

In essence this envisages the closure of most or all of the current inpatient facilities and the transfer of clients to appropriate community placements near their families . This will require investment in buildings,  converting houses or building new. However social finance can cover this on the back of sensible commissioning i.e. 10 year contracts.  With will,  it is entirely  doable. And if we all share the interests of the 3,250 clients we need to move into better community settings we will do it. Of course with any such task there will be a multitude of views and interests but I've been pleased so far that we all seem to be on the side of sorting it out : and that means being client focused.

We submitted The Plan and it was accepted. And I have now been asked to Chair the Steering Group that will guide the development of that, "national plan, locally delivered". The deadline is October. I report to Simon Stevens.  The group first meets on the 28th but already we are working on outlines and challenges.

I'm both pleased and daunted by this task. So far the system has been unable to implement the Government pledge - so what makes me think I and my third sector colleagues can? I guess it's my strong belief in the power of the third sector and our ability to deliver against the odds, as well as our passion to succeed for our people.

The task is in fact not  dissimilar, if  smaller, than that faced in the 80s when it was determined that all mental health asylums be closed and people cared for in the community. A patchy programme but one everyone now knows was exactly right. I chaired Tooting Bec Hospital (a large asylum in South London) then and I worked to ensure its closure but with a proper community provision in and around Lambeth. We know that institutional care is not the answer and if we put the needs of the citizen first we will work to support them in the community whatever their challenges.

If we do succeed we show the NHS what our sector can achieve.  This is the first time the NHS has undertaken "co- commissioning" with the voluntary sector so it's a challenge for us and for them. Many of the challenges faced by the NHS require the fuller involvement and commissioning of the third sector. This may prove a model for wider use. Central to delivery not peripheral to it.

Jan Tregelles, the determined CEO of Mencap, organised a visit for me and my ACEVO colleague Mark to the home of five people in London where Mencap provide support. What I saw was incredibly positive and made me determined that we will succeed because this is ultimately about better lives for people who have not had the life chances many of us enjoy and who are to open to abuse or neglect. Our sector has the skill to give them a better life and the stronger outcomes that hospitals and places like Winterbourne View have not always given them.

So just as well I haven't got any holidays booked over the next few months!


Well I see that my blog has attracted some attention! Good. This issue needs as much energy behind it as possible. However, just to be very clear, we are at the early stages of scoping the remit of the steering group. We have already contacted user led organisations and will be contacting families and people with learning disabilities today, as we had planned to do all along. It would be quite unthinkable to do otherwise.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Remembering Srebrenica

Today is set aside to remember the genocide of the 8000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica. I went to a special commemorative event at Lancaster House this week that our Government laid on to mark this day.  There is a wonderful charity established to ensure we never forget the atrocities that took place this day 19 years ago.

Not a comfortable event at all; with 3 of the mothers of those tortured and killed there and speaking of their experience and their loss. One mother told how she lost 44 male members of her family; from brothers, sons and husband to all her cousins and uncles.

The President of Bosnia also spoke about how we must never forget how such events can happen unless we are vigilant.
The President of Bosnia

Eric Pickles MP and Baroness Warsi gave good and indeed moving speeches. They both made the point that these were European citizens, living cheek by jowl with their Serbian neighbours; not dressing differently, going to the same schools, working together, but one day the neighbour became a torturer, the school teacher a jailer.

 Of course we believe we have a more tolerant attitude to our Muslim communities. But social cohesion can never be taken for granted. It requires work to foster that cohesion. Exactly what our third sector does; whether the great Muslim charities or the local community groups. A sobering occasion indeed.