I have to say I was more than a little underwhelmed by Barnet Council’s proposals to go all ‘budget airline’ with the local government and an issue was made for them to charge for extras – probably more Ryanair style than easyJet style if you want to start nit-picking – not as snappy though for the headline writers. Probably goes to show how everyone follows press releases.

Most of it went over my head save for a couple of things – firstly the reporting that the council as one of their ‘policies’ was

recipients of adult social care in Barnet will choose to spend a limited budget on whether to have a cleaner or a respite carer or even a holiday to Eastbourne

Now maybe I’ve misunderstood (which is by no means impossible) but that is what ALL councils will be obliged to do before long when the individualised budgets and personalisation agenda takes off. There is nothing particularly ground-breaking about that – but well done, Barnet, as most of the press seem to have picked up on it.

The rest of the article talks of bin collection and planning permission but the Local Government Chronicle reports that they are also closing their Welfare Rights Unit.

According to a report due to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on 1 September, closing the unit will meet the council’s corporate objectives of “deploying the local authority’s resources as flexibly and efficiently as possible”.

The unit costs around £230,000 a year to run and consists of six staff who advise hundreds of children with disabilities and residents with mental health or community care needs each year on what benefits are available to them.

According to the report, an analysis last year suggested the unit generated £1.6m in benefits to local people’s income.

A risk assessment of the proposals conceded they risked leaving vulnerable residents to fall into poverty.

Nice way of saving, Barnet. I’m sure the constituent voters in what is one of the most affluent boroughs of London, are very appreciative.

Barnet, being a solidly Conservative borough, has always been keen on outsourcing and with this thought, there will be voluntary organisations who may be able to pick up the slack – my own experience of Welfare Rights Teams in my own council though, is that they have been extremely effective – particularly when we have referred people who are ultimately some of the most vulnerable, namely those who do need a home-visiting service.

Not being someone who needs planning permission desperately, this was the only proposal I could see and it doesn’t necessarily reek of any different kind of government as the headlines seem to indicate. Maybe I’m missing something really obvious but I see nothing related to budget airlines about differently tiered pricing – except it seems to have garnered a large number of headlines.

I worry though about the divisions being made between ‘those who need’ and ‘those who don’t need’ – and more the differences in support and services received based on postcodes once again. It makes somewhat worrying reading if there is to be more discretion at a local authority level about services provided by social care departments.

Time to see how it might work though, as a model, I have to say though, I’m rather glad of a bulkier local government model that at least provides some protection and support to some of the most vulnerable citizens.

Not everyone wants to use budget airlines all the time.

image preshaa at flickr

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