With riots on the streets of a number of large cities across England and the sudden awakening of the government to the needs of children and families, Phil Rodgers letter (Matlock Mercury 11 August 2011) becomes all the more relevant.
Until earlier this year I was a trustee of Derbyshire Dales CVS, a local charity providing invaluable services to the voluntary sector and to families in areas of need. One of the services we provided was a “Sign Posting Service” to families going through difficult times, particularly with children. We had a team of experienced staff whose role was to listen to the problems encountered by families in bringing up their children and to point them in the direction of help that they may need, which could be to one or more agencies in the county. We provided this service (in conjunction with other agencies) under a three year contract with Derbyshire County Council not just in the Derbyshire Dales but across Derbyshire.
Performance assessments of our work undertaken were always extremely good and we believed that we were providing an invaluable service to the community. However, as soon as government pressure came to bear, the conservative controlled county council swiftly moved to wield the axe and dispense with the service by deciding not to renew the contract.
Indeed we and our staff found out about this decision through the media (a novel if not amateur way of communicating with a key service provider!) We had to make the loyal, professional and dedicated staff we employed on this project redundant moving the cost savings by Derbyshire County Council to the general taxpayer in the guise of unemployment benefits.
I left the CVS at the end of March so I am not sure if or how the service we provided is being delivered now but I very much doubt that it can be delivered by the council in house to the service level provided by the CVS or for better value for money.
The CVS also ran the Common Assessment Framework project to help young people, children and families in the Chesterfield area but funding has again been withdrawn and another addition to the unemployment figures.
But the main issue that concerns me is how does this approach by the county council sit with recent announcements by the Prime Minister about “broken Britain” and the importance of the family? His cabinet colleague Ian Duncan Smith says on his own website “It is the voluntary sector marking out that territory between the private and the state, which has so many of the solutions.
I have seen first hand how they try to get someone back on their feet after the state has given up.” He continues by saying “We should understand that reducing the scale of the dependency culture cannot happen unless we work to strengthen families and the extended network of support and care that surrounds them.” With cost cutting reducing if not removing these services in Derbyshire then what hope is there for the children and young people in Derbyshire? Perhaps it’s time for some “joined up” thinking across local and national government.
I would like to stress two other points. Firstly these are my own views not those of Derbyshire Dales CVS and I don’t hold particular political allegiances. My concern is pure and simply for the young people of Derbyshire and the country. If those in power really share my concerns then their actions need to support all the fine words and to date the people of Derbyshire should be forgiven for thinking that our young people have been cast adrift in the name of spending cuts.