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The Chief's Blog - July 2020

Wed 15 Jul 2020

I find myself in a pensive mood this week and full of conflicting emotions. On the one hand I'm feeling proud and uncharacteristically, almost patriotic. I've been catching up on reporting and trying to get those sorts of things back to normal. Those reports evidence numerically that we've had an extraordinary time.

Having been in touch with over 300 member organisations from April to June, directly supporting about half of these, we've undertaken around three times our usual volume of work. We have also continued to build on covid response work,offering support to mutual aid groups who wish to explore becoming good neighbour schemes and have just held a second network meeting for some of the voluntary sector lead organisations involved in response.

Together they alone made over 5,000 weekly shopping deliveries, over 6,000 prepared meals and almost 3,000 prescription collections. Beyond that we estimate tenfold more support was offered at a very local level, and this was richly diverse from bereavement support to relief from domestic abuse, action on mental well-being and help to alleviate poverty. Much of this goes on uninterrupted today and is going to be needed for many months.

I honestly couldn't be prouder to be a cog in the local VCSE and wider public response and on this occasion that very much includes our public sector colleagues, at local councils in particular.

And yet, in recent weeks I've also sat in briefings and meetings with national charities and national statutory bodies where I've endured what I can only term excuses for things being less than satisfactory, followed by explanations of how they will be improved from here in, when often the best thing would be a fundamental rethink or to simply stop.

This has included national volunteer schemes, national funding programmes, and national support structures that have all failed to greater or lesser extents. And the failure is obvious to me and my counterparts, with the common factor being top down imposition.

The rationale for carrying on is usually predicated on the assumption that a. They were doing their best in a difficult situation, b. They have helped and we should be grateful for that and c. Local couldn't have coped without them.

The sheer audacity of some of these claims has been staggering to me and the eye watering waste of money that sits behind them is just as infuriating when I see effective and efficient local organisations week in and week out that would run on a fraction of the investment.

Yet the messages that I and many local sector colleagues keep feeding in, and again I include in this local authorities who are experiencing similar frustrations (if more privately and politely); well they just seem to glance off those who have any real say in the matter. If our local MPs are listening then it's certainly not to me. With the exception of a decent chat to Theo Clarke MP for Stafford, the other 8 Staffordshire MPs have failed to reply to any of my 3 letters to each of them in any meaningful way.

So, yes I'm pensive this month and won't finish with my usual call to action or key point in summary, because I don't have an answer to this one as yet... But one must be found, so postcards please....


Filed under: Support Staffordshire