FIS CANCER CAMPAIGN
The Cancer health supplement had a distribution of 60,000 copies throughout the UK at various events such as Irish parades, London Irish Rugby and various Irish social clubs. It also had promotion within the Irish Post and the Mayor of London St. Patrick’s Day magazine. Distribution also included the Federation’s welfare membership organisations that ensured the message through the supplement was delivered to their many customers.
Following on from the awareness campaign the Federation identified the lack of Irish specific support services for those affected by cancer. We have therefore taken the initiative to set up the first Irish cancer self-help support groups in the UK. We have built on already developed partnerships with the BME Cancer Communities and Nottingham self-help group to support this initiative. The project aims to begin with three pilot self-help support groups which will be up and running within the next few months.
There is a further development from our existing partnership with NCAT. We have successfully supported the inclusion of a member of the Irish community as the first Irish member for the Champions of Cancer Change. The Champion will act as the voice of the Irish experience about cancer services. She will make recommendations about cancer services and related health and well-being services. She will also feed into the national network called BME Cancer Voice. FIS is offering direct support to this individual to keep her informed of issues affecting our community. For further information of the Champions of Change role please follow this link. If you have any information relating either to positive or negative experiences within cancer-related services, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so this information can be passed to our Champion. We will forward all contact details directly for the Champion once she has established herself within this new role.
THE QUEEN’S SPEECH
As you may be aware, the Queen attended Parliament recently to deliver her speech announcing the government’s programme of legislation for the coming year. Her speech mentioned 15 bills, as opposed to - for example - the 23 bills of 2010. A useful summary of the contents of the Queen’s Speech can be found here.
Regulatory and Banking Reform
Not unsurprisingly, given the state of the economy, the speech contained reference to an Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill and a Banking Reform Bill, which were both stated to be priorities. The first of these bills is intended to "create the right conditions for economic recovery" as well as to "reduce regulatory burdens and improve business and consumer confidence". The second will seek to separate the retail and investment operations of big banks, and give greater security to depositors.
The list contains two bills relating to pensions, the first - referring to the state pension - “to make it simpler and more sustainable as people live longer”, and bringing forward the pension age for those now aged 52 or younger to 66 by 2020 and to 67 between 2026 and 2028, with a new flat-rate pension (with no distinction between poor and more affluent pensioners). The second bill refers to public service pensions, transferring these to a career average scheme with weakened inflation proofing arising from the use of the consumer price index measure of inflation.
Children and Families Bill
There is also a proposed Children and Families Bill affecting areas such as adoption, family law and parental leave. In the case of adoption, proposed rule changes will “make race considerations less important than finding a child a permanent home quickly”.
Draft Care and Support Bill
This Bill will be of particular interest to FIS and its affiliates given that it aims to “modernise adult care and make access to support clearer and more equal…giving more people greater choice…and making councils adapt the services they offer to people’s needs and experiences”. This is a draft bill rather than a formal bill, on which the government will be seeking a consensus among the parties before a bill is formally submitted to parliament, something which is likely to speed up the process of the legislation through the formal stages. So it will be important (a) that parliamentary scrutiny of this proposed legislation be far more thorough from the outset than was the case in relation to the Health Reform Bill, and (b) that key representative organisations and stakeholders make their views clear sooner rather than later on the many challenging and controversial issues which will have to be addressed in any legislation.
FIS has been engaged with the issues at stake here since our response to the Labour government’s consultation paper, Shaping the Future of Care Together (2009), but the two main parties have been dragging their feet on the subject since then. However, the publication of the EHRC’s Close to Home Report and the Report of the Dilnot Commission in 2011, are just two of the developments making clear the urgency of addressing social care issues. Because of the profile of the Irish community in Britain, these issues are of key importance to FIS, so that we welcome the introduction of even draft proposals to address the urgent needs which exist, and even hope - in these difficult times - for a range of satisfactory and equitable outcomes.
Small Donations Bill
Details of all the proposed bills can be accessed via the link given at the beginning of this article, but there is one other bill on the list which should be noted briefly. The Small Donations Bill proposes that, in the case of donations of less than £20, charities will be able to claim back additionally 25p against every £1 collected in the UK, up to a limit of £5,000.
CRISIS IN STATE-FUNDED ELDERLY CARE
Freedom of Information responses from 121 English councils have revealed a decline in council-funded care since 2009 fuelling the concern that an increasingly ageing population coupled with inevitable financial cutbacks is producing a crisis within the state-funded care sector.
According to Richard Humphries of the healthcare think-tank The King’s Fund, “A further challenge is the social care funding gap and finding a fair way of sharing the rising costs of an ageing population – something politicians could not agree about during the economic good times”.
The Dilnot Commission has set out how future social care could be funded and one of its main recommendations suggests that individuals make a contribution, with a cap of between £25,000-£50,000 on their savings and assets. This is controversial of course, with many pensioners believing that after a long working life they should not have to pay for their upkeep during retirement. However Lord Warner, the former Labour Minister appointed by the coalition government as Chair of the Social Care Funding Commission, who is investigating ways of reforming the elderly care sector, believes that contributions from individuals are now inevitable and the current administration will have to grasp this toxic issue.
As one of its recommendations to reduce waste and fragmentation within the system and improve the overall wellbeing of individuals, the House of Commons Health Select Committee’s report on social care declared that “A well-funded, fully integrated system of care, support, health, housing and other services is essential, not just to provide high quality support for individuals, carers and families, but also to provide good value to the exchequer and the tax payer”.
The worry of course is that, in the so-called age of austerity, we know the resources to improve the well-being of the elderly will be diminished – which leaves us wondering why previous governments and opposition parties did not, in the years of plenty, pay sufficient attention to a problem which could have benefited from closer co-operation between the parties.
We also need to concern ourselves with the effects of such cuts at a time when the government have recognised the magnitude of the need relating to all forms of memory loss, inclusive of Dementia and Alzheimers, within the aging population in UK. It is worth noting in this context that the Irish - as the fourth largest of the UK’s Ethnic groups and with 36% of its population over the age of 65 - will be directly affected by cuts within state funded elderly care.
WORK PROGRAMME NOT WORKING?
The coalition’s flagship £5billion payment-by-results Work Programme, launched in June 2011 to help the unemployed back into work, is now coming under increasingly scrutiny as evidence begins to mount that core objectives are not being met and that disadvantaged clients are not receiving the support they need.
Key to the success of the Work Programme is how the referral system and methods of payment are applied. It is here that prime contractors, organisations and service providers selected by Government to oversee the delivery of the Work Programme, sub-contract work to specialist Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) providers. However less than a year since its inception a number of charities have left the programme citing a lack of referrals from prime contractors, unfavourable contract conditions and low payments received as some of the reasons for being unable to continue. Having received no referrals at all, St Mungo’s has withdrawn from the programme and Liz Rutherford of the Single Homeless Project, who pulled out in March, described how, due to the nature of the payment-by-results structure, “it became clear that the amount of money we were having to pay to subsidise it (i.e. the Work Programme) was not sustainable”. Rutherford also spoke of the complex needs of some individuals – “it wasn’t just a case of getting people back into work because issues such as homelessness, drug and mental health problems were serious contributory factors which need to be addressed prior to finding employment”.
The Department for Work and Pensions has stated that charities join and leave the Work Programme on a regular basis and provisions are still in place for those individuals with complex needs. However, regarding the concerns of charities surrounding the aspects of payments, for example the insufficient amounts of up-front payments and retrospective payments-by-results, the Employment Minister, Chris Grayling, has stated that responsibility for the type of contract they signed rested solely with the charities themselves.
Despite the DWP making it very clear in a number of statements that prime contractors must utilise the skills and services offered by specialist VCS groups, the perception is growing that they are not sub-contracting enough work to these agencies and therefore the individuals with specialist needs, e.g. the disabled, lone parents, may not be receiving the help they need. In addition the recent scandal concerning one of the major prime contractors, A4E, only serves to increase the scepticism that Work Programme contracts are being mishandled by large for–profit organisations.
In February the DWP produced its first report on the performance of the Work Programme and it tells us that since June 2011 370,000 people have been referred to the Work Programme. A more detailed breakdown regarding sustainable employment during this period is not currently available. However autumn 2012 will see the release of the official statistics on job outcomes and success of the payment structure. DWP Minister, Chris Grayling has stated that “If the big guys duff up the little guys, we will duff up the big guys”. Tough talk indeed; but if the promises made by the DWP regarding how prime contractors should sub-contract are not being realised, and evidence reveals that VCS groups are being side-lined or having to accept unfavourable conditions, then the government will find it difficult to defend its strategy.
BRITAIN’S BROKEN HOUSING SECTOR
The publication this month of the Housing Report by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Shelter and the National Housing Federation reinforced the view that not enough is being done by the government to overturn the very many problems facing the housing sector at this time.
According to Grainia Long, Chief Executive of CIH, "The Housing Report shows the government's progress in addressing our national housing crisis is limited”. So what are the key issues the government is failing on?
The report focuses on the significant shortfall in the number of new homes currently being built. Last year 109,020 new homes were built in England but that is less than half of the 240,000 which The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit said are needed to meet annual demand.
Rents in the private sector are still on the increase and with Government looking at ways to cut housing benefit expenditure, the knock-on effects will include a further increase in the existing high levels of overcrowding and homelessness.
In response to the report, the Minister for Housing, Grant Shapps, said "We have made real progress and I am pleased that this is recognised by a number of 'green' and 'amber' lights in the (Housing) report, but I am under no illusions that we still have a long way to go”. Though also pointing to the government’s £1.3 billion investment to “get Britain building” and the Affordable Homes Programme which is set to deliver 170,000 new homes, the facts still point to a huge shortfall in affordable housing in both the rented and to buy sectors.
There is no single all-encompassing solution to overcome the Housing crisis. What is required is a multi-layered strategy involving close co-operation between the state, voluntary and private sectors to agree on the way forward because the issues resulting in the lack of affordable housing stock and too few houses being built has outmanoeuvred the policy makers of successive governments and opposition parties. With the population of Britain set to rise to 70 million by 2027 an entire generation of new homes will be required to address the scale of the problem. Based on current output and projections the outlook is not at all encouraging.
ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES: EXPLORING THE CASE FOR CULTURALLY SENSTIVE SERVICES
Don't forget to check out the programme for ‘Alternative Perspectives: Exploring the Case for Culturally Sensitive Services’ taking place on 5 July 2012 at London Irish Centre.
The conference, organised by the Federation of Irish Societies and London Irish Centre, comes at a timely point for many BME health and social care agencies as they face challenges in presenting the case for culturally specific services under the new commissioning systems.
With the support of two other national agencies (The Afiya Trust and Voice4Change) the day will attract Commissioners, policy-makers and BME providers to explore the need and potential delivery models for minority community services.