Monday, 19 December 2011

Yes, things are tough out there

Yes,things are tough out there ; my ACEVO North Director , Jenny tells me she was speaking to a CEO in Manchester today whose organisation provides summer play schemes in some of the most deprived wards in East Manchester. They usually run 10 schemes in the 6 week period, this year funding was cut which meant they could only provide 3. The effect was noticeable in the communities with more children playing on the streets and just hanging about.

He thinks it unlikely they will be funded to run play schemes next year at all.The cumulative effect of these decisions across the country mean a significant impact on both social cohesion and the life chances of many citizens. Our sector is at the fore front in tackling these problems but our hands are tied behind our backs by spending cuts.

And one difficult and damaging aspect of all this is that I see CEOs neglecting leadership development. It's understandable that when CEOs are stretched and there is little money that they will put off personal development . That is a mistake. In fact when times are hard it is when you need to look to external support including development. I spent this morning talking to the Chartered Management Institute . ACEVO has strong links and their CEO is a member. We are looking at ways we can jointly support cost effective development.

One of the issues I raised in my FT Profile article on Saturday was the way in which DWP are carrying out their assessments of people on sickness benefit who have mental health problems.

This is a serious problem. Half of all people with mental health problems are living below the poverty line, according to research by the charity Mind.

Three quarters of the 900 people surveyed regularly avoid opening bills and admit to feeling confused about their finances.People with mental health problems are three times more likely to be in debt than the general population. Three quarters of those participating in Mind's Still in the Red survey said their illness had made their debt worse.

The charity is urging people to seek help from its free Money and Mental Health guidebook available in GP surgeries, Citizens Advice Bureaus and online.

So it is time for DWP to review how the reform of sickness benefit is going. This was reinforced for me by the move last week by the UKs cancer charities.

More than 20 of Britain’s leading cancer specialists have written to Iain Duncan Smith warning him that thousands of their patients will be plunged into poverty by his welfare reforms. The clinicians say they are “gravely concerned” that benefits are to be taken away just as people need them most.

Under the Welfare Reform Bill, which is in its final stages in the House of Lords, employment and support allowance (ESA), the main new sickness benefit, will be paid for one year only to those unable to work because of their illness.

After a year, claimants unable to work will be eligible only for means-tested income support. Anyone whose partner earns as little as £149 a week will receive nothing. There is particular anger over the issue because ESA is a contributory benefit, meaning that claimants have paid for it specifically through national insurance contributions over the years.

The letter, which is also signed by 24 cancer charities warns that in many cases a year is too short to recover from gruelling chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. It also questions comments from the Government suggesting that to allow people with cancer to claim the benefit for longer than a year would erode their will to work. “Cancer patients want to work. They haven’t chosen to give up the safety of employment,” the letter says.

“The assertion that providing hard-earned benefits at a time of greatest need encourages a dependency by seriously ill cancer patients on benefits is utterly without foundation.”

1 comment:

Dan Filson said...

There are appalling horror stories of how the ATOS assessments are being done, and it seems crass in the extreme to be doing a 100% re-assessment of DLA claims but taking curiously little note of GP and consultant information. When a full appraisal is done of this exercise, a shedload of obloquy will fall on all those associated. There is still time to rescue the re-appraisal exercise but it is running out, and some heads will have to roll for the ineptitude exercised.

If voluntary organisations are indeed cutting back on training including leadership training, that is short-sighted, but it is right that every training exercise is severely appraised and evaluated. Too much training in my experience is tired in format and flabby in content.