By STEVE TOPPLE

Amid the frenzy of the autumn budget, from ‘millennial rail cards‘ to ‘sticking plasters‘, there was one word that for me was glaring by its omission. And considering it represents 20% of the UK population, you’d think that Philip Hammond and Jeremy Corbyn would have given it a mention. But they didn’t. And that word is ‘disability’.

Missing in action

A quick scan using your internet browsers’ ‘Find’ function shows that ‘disability’ did not feature in either Hammond’s or Corbyn’s speeches. The Labour leader did say:

Too many are experiencing… long-term economic pain. And the hardest hit are disabled people, single parents and women.

But otherwise, that was it. And for me, it sums up the political attitude to disabled people entirely. That is, important when politicians want to look good; not so important in what they view as the grand scheme of things.

A “budget speeches”

There are an estimated 13.3 million disabled people in the UK; 20% of the population. And for seven years, this community has been subjected to what the UN called “grave” and “systematic” violations of its human rights, at the hands of successive Conservative-led governments. The situation is so serious that one UN representative said the government had created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people in the UK.

Figures from 2015 showed 90 people a month were dying after the government told them they were ‘fit-for-work’, when in fact it should have been supporting them. This is how far the rights of disabled people have regressed in the UK. Yet neither politician felt the need to dedicate any part of their speeches to disabled people.

One issue sums up their wilful ignorance best: the ongoing dispute between transport unions and Southern Rail.

What’s good for the goose

At the heart of the dispute are alleged breaches of the Equality Act 2010, because disabled people can’t just ‘turn up and go’ at every station; at some, they have to book assistance 24 hours in advance.

Now, imagine if the BAME or LGBTQ+ communities were told that, if they wanted to get a train quickly, they couldn’t. There would (rightly) be a public outcry. But politicians, companies and much of the public think it’s fine for disabled people because, well – y’know. They have wheelchairs and stuff, right?

Wrong. The situation encapsulates what’s known as the “social model” of disability. It says that disabled people are only disabled because society makes them so – for example, companies not investing properly in the railways so disabled people can get a train like everyone else. Or disabled people not being able to enter a building because it only has a flight of steps.

No person is disabled because of their disability. They are disabled in spite of it. And it’s that which the public and politicians, by and large, fail to realise. They are happy to see disabled people as a sub-species, now so far removed from the social model it’s untrue.

Killed by wilful ignorance

My friend and activist Paula Peters summed it up best recently. She called Theresa May a “murderer”, and she’s not far wrong. Politicians’ wilful disregard for disabled people is killing them. And by ignoring the community in both their speeches, Hammond and Corbyn have, to me, declared their positions: they are fine being seen allowing disabled people to die.

I’m tired of writing about this, but I’m more tired of ignorant politicians and their supporters ignoring my friends and loved ones. Enough is enough.

Get Involved!

– Read more from The Canary on the autumn budget.

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via YouTube/YouTube

 

Source : In both their budget speeches, Hammond and Corbyn threw 20% of the population under the bus [OPINION] : The Canary

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By 

The idea that we are different and don’t want to work, laugh in a pub, or go on a date is far too common. The result, for far too many, is stark isolation

A wheelchair-user using a ramp. ‘It’s still often impossible for us to get in a building.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Increasingly, I feel lucky to leave the house. That’s a strange feeling for someone to have, particularly someone in their early 30s. As a millennial, I know I should be concerned with my nonexistent pension or ever diminishing chance of buying a home – and I am, really. But as a disabled person, I’m aware that nowadays even basic parts of a normal life can’t be taken for granted: going to the office, meeting friends in the pub, even regularly seeing another human being.

New research from the disability charity Scope has found almost half of working-age disabled people are chronically lonely, saying they “always or often” feel lonely. Staggeringly, that works out at about 3 million lonely disabled people in Britain.

The Office for National Statistics has described Britain as “the loneliness capital of Europe” – finding that we’re less likely to have strong friendships or know our neighbours than inhabitants of any other country in the EU. Young people are said to be particularly affected.

But the Scope research points to what can only be called an epidemic of loneliness for disabled people in this country. It’s possible, of course, to be surrounded by people and still be lonely – but break down this week’s study, and this is about stark isolation. On a typical day, one in eight disabled people have less than a half-hour’s interaction with other people.

We’re rightly increasingly aware of how old age can lead to severe isolation – a recent study by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness found that almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely – and the psychological and physical damage this can cause. However, we rarely talk about how, for a whole section of society, loneliness linked with disability and long-term health problems is a stain on decades of people’s lives. Perhaps one of the most disturbing findings of Scope’s research is how younger disabled people, like millennials generally, are affected: 85% of young disabled adults (classed as 18- to 34-year-olds) admit they feel lonely.

Beware of thinking that loneliness is some natural byproduct of disability. The strain of ill-health and disability can often lead someone to be isolated, but how society chooses to respond can either help fix it or compound it. I recently had a bad health spell that meant I was pretty much stuck in bed for two months. But even once I was better, I was very aware that – without support to leave the house or a relatively flexible job – I would still be in bed. These sorts of fears are even stronger at a time when the government is dramatically underfunding the social care system, and tightening eligibility on disability benefits.

I speak daily to disabled people who are essentially cut off from society – twentysomethings unable to go to university, and not because of health problems but because they don’t have a social care package that enables them to get to lectures. Others are forced to be “put to bed” at 8pm because their council has restricted their care slots.

Increasingly I hear from disabled readers who for years have used the Motability car scheme to do something as basic as go to the shops but who, in their tens of thousands, are now housebound after cuts saw this benefit taken away. Or wheelchair users who haven’t been outside for months because, stuck in inaccessible housing, they can’t get beyond their own front door.

Last week the Guardian’s Disability Diaries chronicled how wheelchair users have to turn down invitations to see friends because the pub or restaurant – or public transport – isn’t accessible. It isn’t exactly surprising that disabled people are isolated when it’s still often impossible for us to get in the building.

But attitudes towards disability are also powerful barriers. Two-thirds of the British public admit that they actually feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people, according to separate Scope research. Worryingly, millennials are twice as likely as older people to feel awkward around disabled people: a fifth of 18- to 34-year-olds have actually avoided talking to a disabled person because they are unsure “how to communicate with them” – as if having a disability makes us a separate species.

It’s well established that there’s a stigma around admitting to loneliness – but for disabled people, a stigma around disability is contributing to loneliness. Imagine how lonely day-to-day life can be when the majority of the public avoid talking to you.

Whether it’s government policy removing our social care packages or a stranger ignoring us in the street, tackling this persistent idea that a disabled person is somehow different to other people – that we don’t want to work, laugh in a pub or go on a date – is going to be a crucial part of ending disability’s chronic loneliness.

Britain has a problem with isolating disabled people. Acknowledging that this actually matters is perhaps the first place to start.

 Frances Ryan writes the Guardian’s Hardworking Britain series

 

Source : Loneliness: the second cruel stigma Britain inflicts on disabled people : The Guardian


Typical, this is a throw back to serfdom when those in power lorded it over the poorer persons in the land. Those in power had no feelings for anyone except themselves and others within their class and treated all others with contempt and taking from them the little they had.

Not going back to Victorian values but to Middle Ages values.

Govt Newspeak

You seriously couldn’t make this up

Neil Couling has also tweeted pictures of cakes to celebrate the new benefit – which many people blame for forcing them onto the breadline

Critics of the troubled universal credit shake-up have reacted with disbelief after its boss won a “project management” award.

Neil Couling, the Department for Work and Pensions official in charge of the programme, was hailed for “a significant contribution to the art and science of project management”.

He described it as an “absolute honour to receive this reward on behalf of all the dedicated public servants working hard to make universal credit a success”.

But Frank Field, the Labour chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said: “The world has gone mad and a unicorn will shortly distribute Easter…

View original post 454 more words


By 

A coalition representing 20% of the care sector for people with learning disabilities, Learning Disability Voices, is deeply disappointed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond remained silent on the crisis facing social care in today’s Budget statement.

The Chancellor stated his intention for Britain to be ‘a country fit for everyone’ and yet today’s Budget failed to mention an issue affecting many of the most vulnerable people in our society. The Budget did nothing to address the immediate funding gap the Government has created around ‘sleep-in’ shifts or the longer-term funding of vital services for people with learning disabilities.

Responding to the Budget statement
Tim Cooper, co-chair of Learning Disability Voices and CEO of charity providers United Response, said:

“The silence around social care and the Government-created sleep-in crisis is deeply troubling. This is a daily concern for many people working in the care sector and for many vulnerable citizens in the UK who rely on their care.

“The budget does nothing to reduce anxiety for people with the most complex needs, and those talented individuals who care for them. Our carers and the people we care for deserve better than complete silence from this Government.

“The Budget provided no relief for providers, local authorities and disabled people on personal budgets who are compelled to find the £400m to fund the back pay – despite the situation being created by the Government’s own failures.

“The sleep-in crisis is an existential threat to some social care providers, not to mention their staff and the vulnerable people we care for – a fact we have brought to the Government’s attention time and again.

“Government needs to stop ignoring the social care sector and provide the funding for the £400 million backpay bill now.

“Social care staff deserve better wages, and we are also calling for the Government to ensure that squeezed local authorities receive sufficient additional investment to pay for this.

“We now face the gravest challenge to social care that I have witnessed in my 30 years within the sector.”

Matthew Flinton, co-chair of Learning Disability Voices, said:

“Today the Chancellor has missed a crucial opportunity to address the imminent crisis facing the social care sector.”

 

Source :Budget 2017 fails to mention a sector on the brink of catastrophe says Learning Disability Voices : Care Industry News


Following debates over the role of faith in social work, Ryan Wise analyses whether insisting beliefs are put to one side is the right approach

Photo: Kieferpix/Fotolia

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Ryan Wise

In recent weeks there has been plenty of discussion in the social work community about the role of religion, and what part it can play in practice.

This was prompted by a social work student losing an appeal case against his university’s decision to expel him after he shared support for an American registrar who refused to give marriage licenses to gay couples on grounds of faith and said homosexuality was a ‘sin’. His appeal was on the basis that the university had unlawfully interfered with his rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

piece written in Community Care on 6 November inspired me to reflect on my own perspective of being a social worker, a practice educator and a gay male. I think it is important to look at the relationship between social work and religion with an emphasis on when religious belief leads one to hold views possibly at odds with ideas of equality; namely same-sex marriage.

I am personally fascinated by religion and faith, I completed my undergraduate in religious studies where I was curious to explore the complexities of religion and the influence it has on society and people’s thoughts, views and behaviours.

I respect faith and belief and recognise how religion can be a drive to do well in the world. However, when it comes to views against same-sex marriage, I then struggle. Theologically, I must admit I am not au fait with the intricacies of teaching in monotheistic faith which indicates same-sex marriage as wrong.

Quite the contrary, my understanding is that most of the teachings focused on equality.

Right way forward

When confronted with these views, I do wonder if questioning why they are held is the right way forward. I don’t know for sure, but for me it is about understanding how one has come to this view.

It is key to explore such views and explore faith-based viewpoints more generally. I don’t propose questioning theologically, but adopting a curious approach to ethics and values which our profession holds at its foundations.

When I started as a practice educator I was informed on my first day that a high number of students on the University course held the view that same-sex marriage was at odds with their faith and thus possibly wrong. I struggled with this and, truthfully, I still am struggling. I was perhaps surprised as a view which opposed same-sex marriage was one I considered to be held by few rather than the many, like it was in this context.

I believe it is my role to encourage different thinking and curiosity. The example of referring to homosexuality as a sin is perhaps a clear red flag but what about the grey areas? The grey areas indicate that we can only consider each case in its own individual context.

Beliefs in social work

Perhaps it is about the individual person’s ability to consider their beliefs and values concerning same-sex marriage and reflect on difference. It can be argued that not agreeing with same-sex marriage is not the same as a homophobic stance, but again we have the issue of equality.

People have different beliefs, and often the question is how they can be put to one side to effectively practice in social work. I feel this is the wrong position to take and wonder why this is suggested. I do not think we can put our values and beliefs to one side.

We engage with difference all the time and we must engage with ourselves reflexively.

There is a difficulty when beliefs and values are at odds with equality, although this can be explored through the Social Graces. Devised by Roper Hall and Burnham, Social Graces represents aspects of difference in beliefs, power and lifestyle, visible and invisible, voiced and unvoiced, to which we might pay attention too.

The Social Graces have grown since their original development and currently represent: Gender, Geography, Race, Religion, Age, Ability, Appearance, Class, Culture, Ethnicity, Education, Employment, Sexuality, Sexual Orientation, and Spirituality.

An important part of self-reflexivity is engaging with the Social Graces. Religion is only one of the graces, do you have specific ideas about people’s ages, or people’s class or race? Are we always acutely aware of what we think or believe? With so many Graces in play at any one time, should differences over religion and faith play such a prominent role in deeming what makes a person fit or unfit to be a social worker?

My point is that we all hold different views, ideas and beliefs and we must engage with ourselves in the reflexive process to question those.

Critical reflection

For me it is no coincidence that in my colleagues’ article they mentioned the student in the case central to this renewed debate did not ‘demonstrate critical reflection or regret about his comments, showing little insight into how LGBTQ+ service users might experience such an attitude’.

Critical reflection is a process, a process supported and encouraged by good quality supervision.

I have learned that it is my role as a practice educator to engage with beliefs and values concerning same-sex marriage which are at odds to my own and develop curious thinking.

I am coming from a standpoint that one can hold views that are different, or be seen by the majority as ‘unethical’, and if they are willing to engage with their beliefs then they can practice as a social worker.

I am not saying this is a right or wrong view, merely pointing out there is a plurality of beliefs and values.

If someone is sharing beliefs or values that are outwardly discriminatory or oppressive then it is different to being opposed to same-sex marriage because you believe it to be at odds with your faith. If same-sex marriage is not compatible with your religious beliefs, what counts as ‘good enough’ engagement or reflection and do we have a standard to work towards to allow practitioners to start working with vulnerable children and families?

Fostering curiosity

I think there must be a standard; it is for the practice educator or manager to consider that individual’s capacity to reflect and engage with the Social Graces; if there is evidence of little-to-no reflexive willingness or skill I would question how that person would be able to effectively encourage and empower children and families to change.

I have spoken a lot about what is expected of someone else, but there’s also a question around how I address my own views and my own responsibilities. I must be open and foster curiosity, creating a space for students to explore their thinking. I need to engage with my own approach. I respect religion, but I am not a religious person myself; do I think about this enough when working with those who hold strong beliefs and values?

Reflexivity is not just for those who have faith, or who may hold views we deem controversial, its for every member of the profession.

I recently attended a talk on Witchcraft and Spirit possession. Here I saw a particularly inspirational speaker who spoke openly about how, as a pastor’s wife and a social worker, she skilfully articulated how she negotiated challenges of faith and practice.

The reflexive skill showed was outstanding and left me feeling enthused.

We need to identify our own areas of development and realise that this is not an easy area to articulate or navigate. It is important to consider the culture of organisations and the profession, and how they can work together to bring out these conversations.

This is necessary, not only to ensure that practice is anti-discriminatory but also support practitioners to feel that they should not have to hide their faith.

Ryan Wise is an advanced social work practitioner in children’s services. He tweets @ryanwise18.

 

Source : Should we ask social workers to ignore their religious beliefs? : Community Care


By   Postdoctoral research associate, University of Sheffield

After Brexit, the UK and devolved governments will need to carry out many of the functions that are currently the responsibility of Brussels. These include everything from customs checks to determining agriculture subsidies. Before that happens, much of the civil service will be consumed by managing the leaving process between now and the end of any transition period. The National Audit Office has published a report highlighting the scale of this task.

Ultimately, the UK is undertaking an administrative challenge “more complex than the first moon landing” within a very short space of time. The government is reportedly seeking to employ an extra 8,000 staff by the end of 2018 to help manage the process, with departments recruiting heavily in recent months. However, it is starting from a very low base. Public sector employment as a share of people in work was below 17% in June 2017 – its lowest level since records began in 1999. This suggests that the civil service will be unable to manage Brexit alone and therefore need to rely increasingly on external actors to undertake many of its functions.

Learning from the local government experience

The experience of English local government in recent years shows what can happen when public bodies are given greater freedom but don’t have the resources to take advantage of it. The 2011 Localism Act introduced a “general power of competence” for English councils. This enabled them to carry out any activity that is not expressly forbidden in law. Before the act came into force, local government was only allowed to undertake functions that were explicitly set out in legislation – such as providing social care, education, public transport, or cultural and leisure services. If they stepped over the line, they could be prosecuted and fined – and some were. The act also gave councils more flexibility to decide how to spend the money they received from Westminster.

Local government had lobbied for these changes for many decades, arguing that individual councils were better placed than central government to decide how to respond to local issues. Ministers said the reform represented “a major turning point in the balance of power” and included “new rights and freedoms for communities to take back control”. The immediate parallels with Brexit are fairly obvious.

David Davis: can he afford to take back control? EPA

However, you’d be hard pressed to find many people in local government who think the past six years have been cause for celebration. Most councils have been far too concerned about austerity to enjoy their new found freedoms. Central government funding has been cut by 40% since 2010 at a time when demand for expensive services such as social care is increasing rapidly. Crucially, the increased autonomy handed to councils doesn’t include the right to levy additional taxes. They can also only raise council tax by a significant amount if residents vote in favour in a local referendum.

With limited ability to raise money for the services they are expected to provide, councils have tried out a variety of service delivery arrangements to try and reduce their spending. These include outsourcing, establishing joint ventures with private businesses, or sharing responsibilities for service delivery with other public bodies.

The result of this “austerity localism” is that local government actually has less control over decision-making and service delivery than it did before. Instead, private and voluntary actors have become more influential. As a result, services are more complex and fragmented, and citizens struggle to hold anyone to account for poor performance.

Grenfell Tower is the most high-profile example of how complex contractual arrangements can blur lines of accountability. There have been others however – not least the 25-year contract between Sheffield City Council and Amey to improve the city’s roads. Amey’s decision to fell 6,000 trees as part of this deal has led to widespread local opposition. However, because exiting or changing the contract would be prohibitively expensive, the council has supported Amey’s actions.

Taking back control?

Nearly all of the expert analysis suggests that leaving the EU will cause a major shock to the UK economy, which will result in lower tax revenues for the government. This will mean that resources will be even scarcer than they are at present, at a time when the civil service faces a major increase in demand. Like English councils, therefore, it will struggle to undertake all of this work in-house.

The democratic accountability implications of this are quite profound, if and when outsourced services fail to meet public expectations. For example, if 3m EU nationals apply to remain in the UK after Brexit takes place, and these applications are not processed properly by a private contractor, who will be held accountable when people are wrongly forced to leave? Similarly, who will be responsible if outsourced border protection and customs checks fail to stop terrorists, weapons, drugs or criminals entering the country?

On top of this, the sheer complexity of the Brexit process means that there will be a range of convenient scapegoats whom the government could blame when things go wrong. Rather than “taking back control” of public services, therefore, Brexit is likely to result in more of them being run at arms-length from directly-elected politicians, who will seek to avoid being held responsible for poor performance.

 

Source : Brexit costs could lead to more government outsourcing : The Conversation


Measures to address the long-term reform of adult social care need to be brought forward to tackle the significant financial, workforce and quality pressures facing the sector, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) is urging.

 

With more than half (53%) of councils expecting to overspend their adult social care budgets this year by up to nearly £21 million each, quality challenges increasing as a result of council savings, and vacancy rates for home care staff rising, there is a fear that the sustainability of adult social care could breach its tipping point.

 

Despite a £2 billion injection for social care over three years, which is going to reduce delayed transfers of care from hospitals, and the publication of a Green Paper next summer, ADASS remains concerned that this does not address a continuing funding gap, increased support for people living longer with more complex needs and the costs of the welcome National Living Wage.

 

The challenges – which threaten the ability of councils to fulfil their statutory duty under the Care Act – are impacting now on older and disabled people and their families, as well as care markets, care workers and the NHS.

 

ADASS is particularly concerned that financial pressures for the increasing care needs of working age adults – those with learning or physical disabilities or mental health problems – now exceed those of older people.

 

With ring-fenced investment money topping a list of concerns of Directors, ADASS has made its submission to the Autumn Budget, in which it is calling on Government to:

 

·         Build on the additional £2 billion for the period to 2019/20 by taking further steps to secure extra recurring funding to address continuing service pressures and secure the stability of the care market

 

·         Bring forward at the earliest opportunity clear and wide-ranging options for consultation about putting the social care system on a more secure and sustainable long-term footing beyond 2020. This should aim to secure the right balance between the protection of private assets from catastrophic care costs and adequate public funding for those who have never been able to acquire such assets

 

·         Help to address the urgent workforce pressures in the sector by: affording care staff, social workers and social care nurses the same recognition as other professionals, like doctors, nurses and teachers; enhancing the status of care workers and addressing pay issues and training; and developing a national recruitment campaign and addressing the uncertainty for non-UK EU citizens who are a crucial part of our workforce.

Recognising the importance of adult social care in achieving long-term transformation of the wider health and care systems in order to promote independence and reduce the need for long-term care; and ensuring the full engagement of councils in sustainability and transformation partnerships and in the emergence of accountable care systems.

Margaret Willcox, President of ADASS, said:

“There is a growing depth of shared concerns about the quality, safety and sufficiency of adult social care services from across the sector. This is impacting on thousands of older and disabled people and their families now.

“The extra £1 billion for adult social care this year barely covers the £824 million in savings that Directors will have made this year and cannot hide the fact that by the end of this financial year, £6 billion has been cut from councils’ adult social care budgets since 2010 – with need for our services growing all that time.

“With a continuing funding gap this year and beyond, increased overspending in council budgets, care providers closing or returning contracts, rising need, extra costs due to the National Living Wage and continuing difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, the social care system remains in a perilously fragile state.

“Not only is there evidence that the future care needs of older people will be greater than previous estimates, with far more care home places required over the coming years, but greater cost pressures are now coming from the needs of working age adults.

“Dedicated and hard-working care workers are providing good, personal care despite increasing pressures, but only 4 per cent of Directors are fully confident in their ability to fulfil their statutory duties under the Care Act this year.

“Adult social care needs to be a national priority and future-proofed for current and future generations who will be needing care in increasing numbers and for a longer time during their lives.

“Whilst we are pleased that Government has committed to publishing the long-awaited Green Paper on social care next summer, more needs to be done now to secure extra recurring money to address funding gaps, address continuing service pressures and the stability of the care market.

“Proposals for the long-term reform of adult social care should be brought forward and need to address the needs of the whole population – not just older people.

“It is also vital that future funding settlement for the NHS and adult social care take account of the inter-dependency of these services and encourage collaboration rather than cost shunting.

“The need for a cross-party consensus on establishing a fair and transparent solution to adult social care is growing – and ADASS looks forward to contributing to debates on this.”

 

Source : Adult social care needs long term funding, starting now says ADASS : Care Industry News


By Rafi Schwartz

President Donald Trump came to the defense of accused pedophile and Alabama Republican senate candidate Roy Moore on Tuesday, offering what was effectively an endorsement of the disgraced former judge.

 Speaking with reporters as he prepared to board Marine One on his way to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump declared, “We don’t need a liberal Democrat in the [Alabama Senate] seat.” He also dismissed the growing list of allegations against Moore, telling reporters, “he denies it,” and criticizing Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones as “soft on crime.”
Jones, in his time as a U.S. Attorney, helped convict two of the Klansmen responsible for the notorious 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four young black girls.
Tuesday’s statement marked the first time Trump—who has himself admitted to sexual assault—has spoken on camera about the allegations against Moore. Previously, the White House has insisted that the decision about whether or not Moore was fit for elected office rested entirely in the hands of Alabama voters. Trump did, however, waste little time last week lashing out after Minnesota Senator Al Franken was accused of sexual misconduct. Franken, of course, is a Democrat.

Source : Trump Dismisses the Roy Moore Horror Stories and Effectively Endorses Him for Senate : Splinter


Govt Newspeak

It’s a sad indictment of our society that in the run up to Christmas, many people feel the need to focus their charitable efforts on ensuring that children in the UK do not go hungry.

Related image

The cumulative impact of austerity and the relentless rollout of Universal Credit mean that many children could face a Christmas which is Dickensian, in all the wrong ways.

Yet some people see Victorian times not as an era from which we have thankfully progressed, but as a source of inspiration as to how we can tackle the problems we face today.

In a recent article by Simon Lofthouse on the Tory Workers website, Modern Philanthropy, A Second Victorian Age of Altruism, philanthropy was advocated as, “the acceptable form of wealth distribution for the 21st Century; the radical free market response to today’s challenges.” The author claimed that, “In Victorian times, the wealthy used philanthropy very…

View original post 834 more words


By Chris Ham

In the 40 or more years I have worked with and for the NHS, I can’t remember a time when the government of the day has been so unwilling to act on credible evidence of service and funding pressures. On three previous occasions – 1974, 1988 and 2000 – Conservative and Labour governments heeded warnings of an impending crisis, and found extra resources, often substantial, to maintain and improve care. Why then has the current government turned a deaf ear to the entreaties to provide extra funding from the National Audit Office, the Care Quality Commission, the royal medical colleges, and many others?

Against the backdrop of a decade of austerity stemming from the financial crash of 2007, four explanations suggest themselves. The first is that the government is preoccupied with Brexit and has little time to address other pressing issues such as schools’ funding, housing shortages, resources to fight crime, and growing evidence of distress in the NHS and social care. Whereas in ‘normal’ times all these issues would be receiving widespread news coverage and sustained attention in Whitehall, the outcome of the EU referendum means that Brexit is preventing this happening.

The second explanation is that economic uncertainty linked to Brexit has limited the Chancellor’s room for manoeuvre. Specifically, with progress on the Brexit negotiations proceeding slowly, and an increasing possibility of no deal being reached, the Treasury will not want to commit to public spending rises to avoid being boxed in when the outcome of the negotiations is known.

The third explanation is that the government is not persuaded that an NHS crisis is around the corner. Some ministers take an even tougher line, believing that there is considerable scope to increase NHS efficiency and that this will only happen when leaders in the NHS realise that more money will not be found. Arguments that the NHS is a bottomless pit and will use whatever funding is provided and keep on coming back for more may not be a common view among the current crop of ministers but nor is it an exceptional view.

The fourth explanation is that neither the current Prime Minister nor her Chancellor share the commitment to the NHS of their immediate predecessors. David Cameron’s gratitude to the NHS for the care given to his family is a matter of public record and George Osborne’s support was evident in the additional funding made available in the last Spending Review. Both were involved with Jeremy Hunt in the appointment of Simon Stevens as head of NHS England and all of these individuals worked to the same agenda, based on the NHS five year forward view.

The outcome of the referendum tore this alliance asunder and the consequences were evident in the well-publicised spat between Stevens and No.10 earlier this year. Since then a modus vivendi has been re-established although whether it will survive Stevens’ recent warnings about the impact of continuing financial constraints remains to be seen. What is clear is that there are significant risks for the government in ignoring these and other warnings in view of the attachment the public feels towards the NHS and evidence that services are stretched to the limits.

What might unblock the current impasse? When I worked in the Department of Health between 2000 and 2004, I learnt that public attitudes towards the NHS are tracked closely and taken seriously by ministers. Judging by the annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, the public remain positive about the NHS with satisfaction levels near an all-time high. The survey is, however, a lagging indicator, and recent Ipsos MORI polling reveals rising public concern about the NHS and fears that its performance will deteriorate.

If these fears materialise, the government may feel impelled to act but by that stage so much damage will have been done to services that it will be difficult to reverse the decline. Far better to intervene now and find the additional funding The King’s Fund and others have argued is necessary (£4 billion in 2018/19 as a down-payment on meeting a funding gap we estimate at £20 billion by 2022/23 based on current spending plans) thereby demonstrating that the NHS really is safe in this government’s hands.

A former Conservative Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, famously said that to govern is to choose. For Philip Hammond, the moment of choice is approaching rapidly, and on this occasion it will have far reaching implications both for the government and for the public for whom the NHS remains a treasured institution.

 

Source : The Budget: is the government listening? : The King’s Fund

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