Friday 14 November 2014

Aaronovitch, Leeds and Winterbourne

Another great ACEVO leadership lunch yesterday, this time with Dave Aaronovitch – the well known broadcaster, journalist and Chair of Index on Censorship. I say ‘Dave’ – as I knew him when he was one. But as he said when he got to 28 it became David so he always knows if someone calls him Dave it’s a very old acquaintance. As I said to him, the same applies to me. Only very old friends call me ‘Steve’ (‘Tony calls me Steve’ as a famous Guardian profile of me headlined).

But I digress. We had a fascinating discussion on the state of the electorate and likely outcomes in May. As he had said in his Times opinion article that morning, pace Alice in Wonderland, ‘none shall have prizes’ next May. And perhaps the parties don’t even want to win. Very interesting also to hear from Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC and author of the recent inquiry into historic child abuse records at the Home Office. He had been on the BBC the day before having to contradict the PM who had said his report showed there was no cover up. ‘He's wrong’ he said trenchantly. Good for Peter – a fine example of a third sector leader speaking truth to power.

Earlier in the week I was at the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board for an ACEVO regional forum; a chance for our Chief Executives to get together to network and share. As is so often the case, thoughts were much around problems on governance and money. Interesting to speak to Liz Bradbury who runs a superb outfit that supports young and old with practical companionship and a raft of services, as well as running a service for people with learning disabilities. We had a chat about my recent work on the Winterbourne report. Indeed another member there talked to me about how they are setting up a new community facility, with social finance support, to enable people to move out of hospital and back into the community.

The report of my steering group on Winterbourne is now finished. Our last meeting has taken place, and the report is off to the printers. It will be launched later in the month. We will have to wait to see the recommendations published  and how they are then received. And then the real work begins in implementing what we say.

I get a strong sense of consensus around what we are saying but we will see. And after all a report is only as good as what people do with it. After 3 years of failure to deliver on the pledge to move people from inpatient institutions there is cynicism around whether there will be action. But I’m optimistic. From what I have heard from all those who have taken part and been involved there is a strong sense that we can now move forward on an action plan for change. We shall see.

But before we get to that launch its the ACEVO Annual Dinner and Annual Conference next week. We will have a rather splendid document to launch.... but I'm not saying on what. And our guest speaker will be old friend Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities of Government. And we are overflowing with guests like Francis Maude MP, Simon Stevens, Will Hutton, Lady Smith, Lord Wood, and our Minister Rob Wilson MP. But the stars will of course be the charity and social enterprise CEOs!

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