Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Protect the vulnerable

As I forsaw a few blog entries ago, the States Business Plan is make "easy savings" at the expense of those groups who cannot pose a threat, hence the news about Mencap now facing cuts. Reneging on promises is nothing new for social services.

JERSEY Mencap is devastated to learn that funding for its respite home for children with learning disabilities could be withdrawn. If Health and Social Services go ahead with its plan to cut services as part of the Business Plan it would be reneging on a promise it made to the charity in 2007 to take over the £200,000 running costs of Maison Allo in St Saviour next year.(1)

I possess a minuted meeting in which on which one of the senior managers of social services gave his firm promise that one youth respite service for an autistic young man would not be cut until a suitable adult provision that provided the same respite would be put in place. Of course, the promise has been broken this year, and the respite service is being completely removed. Broken promises, whether in writing or not, are the order of the day, and if there is so little trust in Jersey's government, it is surely something they have brought upon themselves.

What is shocking about these new Mencap cuts is that Paul Routier, who is in the government as an assistant minister only found them lurking in the annex to the 2010 Business Plan, and clearly was not involved in the consultation in any way. The annex, at 266 pages, is an extremely good way to bury bad news, except that everyone is now going through it with a fine toothcomb.

Everyone it seems thinks these cuts are verging on the desparate, and even James Reed, the educational secretary says he will not implement the cuts for his department. Peter Body, the editor of Jersey Business Brief, and someone who does talk a lot of sense (even if I lampoon him affectionately every so often), thinks they are a complete disaster, and it is clear that if something is not done, they will be the largest collective suicide note in the States of Jersey.

There has been no public debate on priorities, and to launch a debate by States debate will be divisive when consultation would have so much better. There is talk of massive industrial action collectively by the Unions, and so much anger that it could bring the Council of Ministers down. That assumes, of course, that those supporting the plan would have the guts to resign if it was thrown out, but politicians, I am afraid, are not known for such integrity.

Finally, here is a letter from Ed Le Quesne (2), who calls for the States to ensure the vulnerable are protected. It appeared in the JEP, but is well worth a wider audience:

IN September, the States will be debating a business plan with real choices to be made about budget priorities. Early ideas seem to lack a moral framework.

A priority should be to maintain and even extend services to vulnerable groups. It is not the time to cut back on building up proper services for vulnerable children and families, as outlined by the Williamson report.

It is not the time to cut back on the Alcohol and Drugs Service, or other health promotion initiatives, or the valuable work of the Bridge. Jersey has one of the highest proportion of working women and they and their families need support.

We should ensure a living wage for the lowest paid by steady rises in the minimum wage, and the States pension should continue to be raised, as it is the main income for many elderly people.

The pay freeze should not extend to everyone, but only kick in above a threshold level where people have enough money for discretionary spending. Perhaps the additional work related pensions paid to retired civil servants, teachers like me, should not have a rise for a while.

The waiting lists at housing trusts show there is still a need for more social housing. Young people around the income support threshold find extra work means an almost equal loss in benefit, and they really struggle with rent levels in the private sector.

Education for work-related skills and at university is still important.

We are a relatively low-tax economy and some of the ideas considered at the time GST was introduced should be looked at again to raise more income from the relatively prosperous.  Charges for those able to pay should be introduced more widely in the health service to maintain important services for the vulnerable.

Investment in energy efficiency and sustainability is urgently needed and should not be an easy target for unwise cuts.



Nancy said...

Perhaps the zero ten nonsense should be dumped once and for all. It was clearly designed to toady up to 'big business' but in the real world 'big business' can go where it pleases, it has no commitment to our future and owes us nothing, so why must we continue to pander to its whims whilst our own people suffer. Perhaps the naive idiots who continue this farce could manage for once to consider the needs of their electorate both right now and in the long term. Dream on.....

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