Call for Action – Crisis Looming #Budget2017
Six days ago, in the run up to the budget on Wednesday, Isabelle and I went along to the Westminster Forum on “Key Issues for Children’s Services in England – new service models, managing financial pressure and next steps for inspections”.
We went along to represent Bringing Us Together and our family networks across the country and to feedback to you all.
The first two talks by Dr Jo Finch and Councillor Richard Watts gave an honest, albeit sickening, insight into the reality of the present situation and shared statistics clearly showing that children’s services are not working across the country.
The situation is getting increasingly desperate and services are needing to do more with less money and dwindling budgets. If we keep continuing to punish families for living in poverty it will in fact increase demand long term.
Already 28% of those in poverty in the UK are disabled people (3.9m)and 30% of Britain’s children are now classified as poor (4m). As if this is not bad enough we know that child poverty is going to increase in the next 5 yrs.
Richard Watts stated that nothing is more important than getting children’s services right for our children. The £2billion shortfall is not a true reflection for the rise in demand and is just about carrying on what we are doing now. There are increases in workload with the decrease in budgets.
Families, as we know, are having a really hard time at the moment. There has been extensive funding spent on different models and ways of working but we remain unconvinced that this is the way forward and that this money would be better spent on early intervention.
Our Children’s Centres are closing, there are more homeless on our streets, families are going hungry and more children going into care. Richard stated that local sector is the key factor in this rather than more new initiatives.
The core focus should be improving the lives of children locally.
Housing is critical in this and has the biggest impact on families – where we invest is fundamental. The impact of what is going to hit is enormous and we need to respond.
Pamela Dow from Catch 22 discussed the recruitment and retention of social workers, another key factor, and we heard from another speaker that the average working expectancy of new social workers is 8yrs. There was a case study from one LA where people have been trained to work alongside social workers as support staff to take the load of social care and to support the family with signposting, information and advice.
It was evident from the first speakers that we are talking about one of the most important issues of our lifetime across the country. There is no question about it that we are in a crisis. Name it for what it is. Money Matters – allow systems and services to be adequately resourced. There needs to be an injection of funding into children’s services so we can use resources more effectively.
Several models were discussed later in the morning on where there is good practice and where it is working – Hackney and Leeds were the two examples. Tony Oakman spoke about the work that Dudley have been doing – they were a failing authority and have had to think very differently about their work. Maria Godfrey talked about how Oxford are working with the 3rd sector and have £1m grants for organisations to develop local services to meet the needs of the community. This all requires a fundamental cultural change and local communities leading with the involvement of interfaith organisations, families, parents and working in partnership with universal services. They have seen positive differences whilst being less problem focussed.
The last two talks were given by Emily Whitehead and Julia Yong from the Department for Education. Their talks were frank – we don’t know how it looks so help us with the evidence of how it should look.
Questions from the floor included a young man from the care system, another parent called Alice McCullen who is involved in Transforming Care and runs an organisation called Child Protection Autistic Child, Pamela Calder from Early Childhood Studies Network, Isabelle and myself. This has definitely brought awareness of the impact on crisis for parents with children with autism and learning disabilities who are in hospital settings. Our work with families and mental health & well being was a reminder to those there that we are here for the duration.
Since the meeting I have listened to the discussions on TV and radio in relation to this Autumn’s budget.
Where oh where is the funding for our services? It is barely mentioned and my heart bleeds at the thought of what is to come and how our children, and our children’s children, are going to be the ones that suffer.
Our families are only just coping and as one mum said on social media she struggles to put food on the table and is only just getting by. She and millions more like her going to barely survive or will end up standing in line for the food bank.
We have been told that “households with one or more disabled member will be significantly more adversely impacted than those with no disabled members.
On average, tax and benefit changes on families with a disabled adult will reduce their income by about £2,500 per year; if the family also includes a disabled child, the impact will be over £5,500 per year. This compares to a reduction of about £1,000 on non-disabled families. This infographic from Equality and Human Rights Commission is frightening reading.
Where is the solidarity, the campaigning from parent led charities? Who does not feel the anger, the fury in the injustice and the blatant inequalities facing families?
By not doing anything we are partly responsible for allowing this to happen to our friends, families, and our own disabled children who are growing up in a society unable to care enough to prevent the looming crisis.
Let’s wake up and shake up.