Friday, 17 September 2010

Targetting the Vulnerable.

Having an autistic son who now lives an independant life, I'm filled with trepidation when the government start to talk about cuts to welfare budgets. Yes, by all means get rid of the spongers and the mickey-takers who shouldn't be on benefits, but don't target the vulnerable.

My son is one of those people who, if not supported hates confrontation and says to people exactly what they want to hear in order to avoid the slightest aggro. Imagine him being put in front of a panel of professionals whose sole aim is to get as many people off benefits as possible. Without any advocacy, he'd lose all his benefits, his rent, home and be out on the streets.

I know this for a fact because every step of the way, I've had to fight for support for him. To the point of dropping him and his packed bag at social services when they had failed to provide more than two weeks of respite care in four years, despite social services themselves making the recommendation in the first place and being told by two complaints panels to honour their own obligations.

I know how fragile the support he gets from the state can be and how easily it can be removed by some over-zealous jobsworth who sees cost-cutting success as a promotion opportunity. I've screamed across tables at people like that a number of times in my career as a dad looking out for his own.

So it comes as no suprise to hear that the cuts decreed on high are starting to be targetted at the vulnerable.

I've heard of a number of cases in the past couple of weeks where day service centres are being earmarked for closeure or where social services are taking steps to rehome people with learning disability in cheaper and less appropriate accommodation in order to save costs. Families and carers are up in arms, but they are a minority that can be safely ignored because they and their loved ones aren't in sufficient numbers to be able to affect voting. So councillors can decree policy for ruthless managers to enact without any risk of losing their perk-filled job.

This is what I mean when I say that the government HAS to start rolling up its sleeves and directly manage the cost savings needed in government. Without that iron grip on finances, letting local managers decide on service reductions will only end with the worst possible outcome.

Cost reductions in the public sector need to be targetted first and foremost at the administrators: those people employed during the New Labour regime to quantify, compare and report adherence to New Labour's target-driven culture. New Labour isn't in government any more, targets and league tables are mainly a thing of the past, so lets start trimming admin staff.

However, there's a problem: trimming admin staff doesn't cut the budget enough so the Albanian Transexual Dwarf noseflute troupe will lose funding. Cutting admin staff doesn't free up a building and land that can be resold to the councillor's developer mate Bob, generating a handy kickback for the councillor.

No, instead day centres close and the buildings get sold and redeveloped. The weak, the vulnerable get displaced, losing access to activities, access to contact with people other than the dozen care workers at their home, access to benefits, access to life.

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