“We need resourced….”

When asked to do this article about a voluntary sector worker’s view on the changes to Community Planning structures and what’s needed in order to be involved, I was slightly surprised as I’m known for “going off on one” at the mere hint of another change in structure at the City Council.

Now change is not necessarily a bad thing…..however in the last 13 years with Wise Women I’ve seen, urban aid, urban regeneration , areas of priority treatment, priority partnership areas, social inclusion partnership areas, social inclusion budget thematic partnerships and mini SIPS come and go.

Now TADA!!!!!!!  Community Planning Partnerships and Pathfinders come on down.  Quite frankly I’m confused and I know I’m not the only one!

Some of our existing Social Inclusion Partnerships have been incredibly effective at ensuring certain social issues are kept on Governmental agendas at a local, national and international level.  Violence Against Women, People Seeking Asylum, Women involved in Prostitution and LGBT (historically unpopular issues) have greatly benefited from policy makers sitting round the table with grass root service providers hashing out what works and what doesn’t.  We should be proud that Glasgow City Council is one of the most proactive City Councils in Britain on issues of Violence Against Women and we are lucky to have Councillors who are extremely proactive on issues of discrimination and exclusion.    To me…..it was working…I wasn’t aware it needed to be fixed.

I recognise that Glasgow City Council is a huge monster of a machine which tries to move with the times, I support the need to develop and grow and appreciate the upheaval that causes…..But don’t you just feel like your getting somewhere with it when they wheeech it all out from under you shouting its time for change. Issuing us with mind maps and new jargon and catchy phrases which drives everybody round the bend cause like a bad Take That tune, you just cant help singing along.

People who are developing the new Community Planning Process have said many things about the benefits of working this way.  The Scottish Executive have stated that all Council’s have to lead on a Community Planning process, bring together all relevant partners to work jointly, facilitate consultation in delivering services and ensure issues of equality and diversity should always be taken into account.  Isn’t that what we have been doing?

Sounds great….however some organisations, particularly some Violence Against Women Projects have concerns that the new process moves us further away from direct access to decision makers.  This is bound to have an impact on the great work over the past few years raising profiles of issues surrounding violence and abuse.

The setting up of the Glasgow Equalities Partnership (run by the 4 existing equality networks) will in some way address the issue of Women, Disabled People, LGBT People and Black Peoples inequality .  But the sheer number of hours the already overstretched voluntary organisations have put into setting this up is astonishing.

Few of us have budgets to be involved with these processes.  Our funding is for direct service provision. GCC tells us that.  Departments we are accountable to from, OSCR, The Care Commission to SWD Supporting People tell us that. Constantly juggling direct service provision and endless partnership meetings is a nightmare.

And yes I know everyone is busy but it’s doubtful Social Work needs to close for a couple of hours to let someone go to a meeting!  Or that Strathclyde Police reps attendance at meetings mean they miss their targets, get their funding pulled have to take cuts in salaries or lose posts.  Its not the first time its happened in the voluntary sector, and yes it’s improved but the threat is still there and still very real to us because every change brings more meetings and more time away from service users.

We are not naive in the voluntary sector.  We know the bigger picture is important.  But a woman going into Woman’s Aid doesn’t care if we are out there fighting the good fight at a political level ….all she wants is the office open so she can get a refuge space for her and the kids.

This is not news to anyone…it’s been said before.  Every meeting I have attended regarding Community Planning, the issue of capacity building for Voluntary Organisations is always high on the agenda.

So yes I’ve blabbed on.  I’ve used the maximum words allowed for an article.  Maybe I should have just written  “We need resourced……see the previous 25 years Minutes”.

Frances Monighan, Wise Women, 120 Sydney Street, Glasgow G31 1JF
Tel: 0141 550 7557, Textphone: 0141 550 7558 Fax: 0141 550 4443

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