The copy of The Guardian sitting on my desk at work yesterday didn’t exactly bring a vast amount of cheer to the increasingly chilly office with the headline reading that 100,000 jobs are to be lost in the public sector by the Spring.
It had a particular resonance, as I expect it does in everyone employed by a local authority.
Particularly pertinent because we actually found out more of the details of what our local authority was planning to cut yesterday.
A few things struck my mind as I read through the list in detail. Firstly that no-one in local government can afford to be complacent. Certainly the idea that front-line services are protected is as laughable as it ever was. Secondly that service delivery is going to be a whole lot more difficult.
Of course these revelations didn’t hit out of the blue.
But there is no doubt that these are frightening times ahead. It is horrible hearing about job losses and hard not to feel compassion. It is particularly hard when you see departments that have been absolutely vital in providing support services completely disappearing.
Day services are being cut, that is a fairly obvious and unidentifiable comment that is happening pretty much across the country. But these aren’t just ‘day services’ – these are people I’ve worked with for many years who love their jobs and put a great deal of care into it.
I was looking over the list with my colleague who sits next to me. She was telling me similar stories about her husband’s borough – he’s a social worker in an outer London borough. She said that she worried because they all seemed so complacent. They were social workers, they were needed, they were safe.
We acknowledged that no-one can really claim to be safe. Not anyone. Child protection social workers are probably ‘safest’. It looks like our borough might be moving social workers from other areas of childrens’ services into child protection teams to bolster them as the more preventative work gets shelved.
I suppose the statutory work that can only be carried out by people with particular roles are safer than others but even then the actual manpower can be reduced wholesale and there’s no guarantee that a particular individual will be chosen over the person sitting next to them.
Eligibility criteria for accessing services in adult care, unsurprisingly, will be raised higher and higher. Again, that’s a pretty inevitable cut.
The union is gearing up and ready to go. Demonstrations planned. Marches planned. Will I go? Probably. Will it make any difference? Who knows.
I am just so angry at the moment. Angry about so much and politically motivated in a way I haven’t felt for over a decade. The local authorities have been hung out to dry by the central government and services that are relied upon will be lost. There will be attempts by the central government to shift blame for the loss of these services on local politicians. Choice about which services to cut is not much of a choice where everything that isn’t protected by statute will likely be cut.
Localism rings very hollow from here.
As for the NHS, there was never, not for one millisecond that I actually believed Osborne. Not about real increases in spending nor about front line services not being cut. Promised ‘efficiency savings’ is more than a little hollow and yet another ‘reconfiguration’ and ‘entirely new way of working’ will no doubt suck up all the additional money that it will supposedly save.
The separation of front office from back room is very arbitrary. All very well keeping the same number of social workers but without the people providing support who are being cut, we will be taken away from the face to face tasks that are lauded as being ‘real social work’. Training budgets – they’ve all been cut too – is training and professional development really ‘back office’?
The upsetting thing is that while, for now, my own job does not seem to be under threat, I see people that I’ve worked with for many years having the Sword of Damocles over their respective heads. On a personal level there is an air of desperate sadness but on a wider level, I fear for the kind of service we will be delivering over the next cold, hard years of famine.