Wednesday 13 March 2013

Dreams R Us.

So if Monday was rural affairs, yesterday was Foundations and social enterprise. Or at least it should have been I was due at the Clare Foundation in Bucks, a recently established charitable foundation which was set up by the guy who founded the Dreams bed chain. Run by ACEVO member, David White.

But as it happens I ended up with a 4 hour visit to casualty with a bad eye inflammation. In fact I knew exactly what it was and the prescription I needed, as I told the young doctor on duty so could we just get on with it! He looked at me as though I was yet another of those instant medical experts who overdose on Google! But 4 hours later I was proved right. And then a nice wait in the Pharmacy and I emerged blinking into the daylight and a supervision session with my Chair Lesley Anne. Somehow it seemed fitting that I was putting my eye drops in siting in the RNIB! Lesley Anne was telling me there is a support group for people just like me!

But the day had basically gone. Sitting around and watching inefficiency in the eye department just reinforces the view that the NHS needs radical reform; as indeed my friends Michael Dixon and Chris Drinkwater (respectively CEO and Chair of the NHS Alliance) point out in The Times today. It is simply not possible to carry on running hospitals on the basis that the majority of people in the beds are frail elderly who would be better treated in the community.

And it was a bit of a health day for me yesterday as had had the second of our dinners with ACEVO member and the new CCGs which we are running with the NHS Alliance. Its always fascinating hearing what members are up to? Steve James who runs The Avenues Group, was talking about dementia tennis, a sport I had hitherto been unaware of!

So we gear up to the Budget. Already we hear of the spineless retreat on the minimum alcohol price retreat. And the bedroom tax is coming in for more battering. As it should; a thoroughly reprehensible piece of mean policy making.

The Budget looms. So I have written to George. I'm sure he is reading my letter carefully. I have suggested the government should initiate reforms to unlock our sector’s potential to transform public services.

I suggest that the Treasury considers providing funding to build capacity in the sector and make it easier for charities to apply for contracts.

The Government needs to recognise the "innovation and energy" of voluntary sector providers in the priorities for the financial year ahead that the Chancellor will set out.

If we simply try to deliver services in the same way as before, but with smaller budgets, vulnerable service users will undoubtedly be adversely affected, the letter says. "To mitigate the impact of spending restraint, we need new approaches and new providers. ‘More of the same' is not an option."

I have highlighted the Ministry of Justice’s reforms to rehabilitation services as a welcome step forward, but say "there is still more that could be done, in particular to ensure that public services can benefit from the innovation and energy of voluntary sector providers, as part of a diverse provider market".

Initiatives to encourage enterprise, such as the Small Business Bank, are often solely aimed at the private sector. Osborne should include our sector where further measures in this area are developed.

The Government must consider the needs of the sector and its beneficiaries" in the Budget. As I say to George, "ACEVO’s members often tell me that they are experiencing an increase in demand for the services they provide to disadvantaged groups, at a time when the sector is adapting to a constrained financial environment. There is a real risk that additional cuts would put extra strain on already-squeezed services."

"Further significant cuts to welfare budgets or local authority budgets; for example, would have a damaging effect on disadvantaged groups."

Will George take notice? Well, I'm still dreaming.

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