Sunday 28 February 2010

Mending broken society...

Arrived at the Conference session on "Broken Britain" to be greeted by a demo shouting"Eton boys: off our streets" ! I'm not sure what that was all about , surely Eton boys are not usually on the streets?

Good to bump into Eric Pickles MP. He was one of my members on the local Government negotiating body; always a trenchant critic of absurd union claims. He has a fabulous knock about style but you should not underestimate his intellect or ability.

An interesting session; a lot of good debate on the need for greater social cohesion , though it is only when you are here that you pick up the vibes, as for example when Michael Gove mentioned the need for discipline , the rumble from delegates was palpable.

Theresa May emphasised that third sector providers will have a bigger role to play in delivery. There was a promise to use the sector more in "Sure Start".

Chris Grayling MP spoke about the stars of the voluntary sector and their "inspirational work ". That was before he got stuck into how he was going to fight crime and criminals. Of course the key here is to divert resources into rehabilitaion - which is the main way to cut crime in the long term. However Dominic Grieve MP did pledge that there would be a much greater use of our sector in rehabilitation. He also wanted to place special empahsis on treating addiction.

There were a lot of promises being made today but I wonder if those making these promises realise how difficult and intractable the problem of achieving social justice is. Once in Government they will have to implement all this and I'm afraid the problems that afflict many communities are not often amenable to the wave of a ministerial wand!

However one reacts to the "Broken Society" message , it has to be an advance that the Cameron conservative party wants to promote and involve the third sector - at national and community level. This does come across as a serious call to action.

But is there an illogicality about the call for action to deal with the problems of Broken Society and the promises to expel disruptive pupils or to ensure criminals serve longer sentences. Of course all oppositions promise more than they can possibly deliver. It's what ultimatly fuels the public distrust of politicians!

Of course the main event today was the speech by David Cameron; an important one as his poll lead slips. Good to see that my vice chair on the Social Investment Business, Harriet Baldwin (PPC for Worcs West ) on stage behind DC. Indeed in shot by his right ear!

The theme of a Broken Society was dominant. I have to say it was impressive - delivered without notes which I do think takes some strong nerve and skill! But what is now clear is that this election will be much closer than many we have seen for years: back to 1974 indeed. I remember the February 74 election and the days of negotation and intrigue as Ted Heath tried to hang on but in the end had to give up; leading to another election in October. I wonder?

This week sees the launch of a new independent commission on public health, established by ACEVO. The official Launch takes place tomorrow ( Monday ).

Public health is high on the political agenda and both the Government and Conservatives are setting out their plans for the reform of public health services. But they have neither yet cracked the practicalities!

So ACEVO has established this Commission on Public Health; formed to explore the third sector’s potential role in public health, and to determine the steps that need to be taken to realise that potential.

It will be chaired by Simon Antrobus, Chief Executive of Addaction and brings together third sector chief executives working across all fields of public health including:

Alison Rogers, British Liver Trust
Peter Baker, Men's Health Forum
Andy James, Diabetes UK
Lola Barrett, Grenfell Housing
Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking and Health
Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern
Margaret Talbot, Association for Physical Education
Jeremy Hughes, Breakthrough Breast Cancer
Richard Parish, Royal Society of Public Health
Paul Lincol, National Heart Forum

Now if that is not impressive , what is?

The Commission will also have a number of official observers from the Department of Health. The observers will be on hand to offer their expertise on existing operating frameworks and the technicalities around proposed reforms.

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