Big Society?

By Mick Scrimshaw on November 19, 2014

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I had a meeting recently with a local charitable organisation that works with young families. They were trying to come up with fundraising ideas to fill a gap in funding that has arisen because of changes in funding from the County Council.

There is now only funding to work with a set number of families and only up to six months each providing that these families meet a certain criteria of need. Whereas the charity recognise that for many of the families they work with, they need help for longer and others need just low levels of support to stop them getting to the stage they might need more help later.

There was general agreement that the changes were wrong although it was accepted that that was now how things were and they needed to find a way forward, hence the meeting to discuss funding such as car-boot sales, coffee mornings and the like.

What struck me was that this was being driven not so much by the County Council’s own funding problems but actually it was a clear policy decision by the Conservative administration that fitted in with their own ideology.

If you read the Council’s plan it is littered with comments about how they want people to look after themselves and not rely on help from the council, which in principle is good and I would love that to happen but the reality is something different.

Some people, and some families, will need more than the basic level of support on offer and listening to the volunteers who do this kind of work, it’s clear that for some families they will need support for far greater than six months and if that support disappears, those children can easily end up in a position where they will need much more intervention later. So in attempt to save money, and encourage independence, and reduce the role of the council, there is a very real risk that exactly the opposite will happen, and more money will be needed to be spent later with a great deal of expensive professional support needed perhaps from social services and or the police.

Either the Tories don’t realise this, don’t care about it, or simply believe it is up to the voluntary sector to deal with all this themselves and nothing to do with them. And whichever one of those it is, if that’s the big society, you can keep it!

Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.

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