Last week I received a stark reminder of why our public services are in trouble. I’d been visiting a small local charity set up over 20 years ago to improve levels of literacy and the life chances of children in one of the country’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. With a focus on supporting parents to read books with their babies and sing rhymes to them, its work is highly regarded by health visitors and early years specialists for being able to build positive relationships with families that they themselves struggle to reach, especially during those crucial first years of a child’s life. How the project survives on its threadbare funding is a minor miracle, but that’s not the issue here. More recently, the project had been developing a new home-visiting service with the enthusiastic support of the local speech and language therapist. All was going well until word came down the line from NHS Trust service managers – speech and language therapy doesn’t engage with children at that age or in the way being described. Why? Because it never has. And so, yet another locally inspired, co-produced, early intervention is thwarted by dogma at a distance. Christie would be spinning in his grave.
In the most recent briefing…
Despite the best efforts of Lesley Riddoch and her recent book and the campaigning zeal of 1000 Huts, the hutting culture in Scotland still lags way beyond that of our Nordic neighbours. Cost and availability of land have a lot to do with that and until those hurdles are resolved, perhaps the way ahead lies in a more collective approach. Communities (of place or interest) can muster significantly more resources than your average person, so why don’t we adapt (or even give support to) the wholly altruistic efforts of those trying to establish a Hut of Wellbeing in Fife.
An issue that regularly surfaces in this briefing is to what extent Scotland’s third sector thinks and acts independently of government. At a time when large swathes of the sector are wholly reliant on the Scottish Government for their funding, many might argue that it would be wholly irresponsible for them to speak out or even bite the hand that feeds them. But as Indy Johar of Dark Matter Labs pointed out recently, the flipside is that you become an internal service agency of the Government. Important, at the very least, to know where you stand on this.
Sunday night brought a new two part investigation by BBC Scotland into the perennially unanswered question – Who Owns Scotland? In the first programme, Martin Geissler makes a pretty good stab at highlighting some of the key issues such as how to resolve the vacant and derelict land that blights so many communities, the creeping appropriation of public space for private profit, understanding the extent of Scotland’s Common Good and the potential for ownership that a growing number of communities are beginning to grasp. Part two promises to focus more on the rural issues.
SCIOs (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations) are ten a penny nowadays but ten years ago this new legal form was uncharted territory. It was designed to make life easier for charities who were both keen to retain charitable status and simultaneously offer their trustees the legal protections of limited liability. Any organisation that was first in the queue to adopt this untested legal form, clearly has plenty of chutzpah but also marks itself as one to watch going forward. Turns out Scotland’s first ever SCIO has been a pioneer in all sorts of ways. Happy 10th birthday to Glasgow’s South Seeds.
The small example outlined above is an illustration of why our public services operate within a cycle known as ‘failure demand’ – where we endlessly try to fix what we continue to break. So, rather than investing much later in a child’s life, when poor levels of literacy begin to manifest as challenging behaviour and are impacting negatively across other areas of their lives, we should have invested earlier with much better outcomes for all. For that to happen, we need system change of a sort that everyone understands but we don’t have the courage to embrace.
Converting policy promises into deeds is clearly not a straightforward business. The removal of charitable status from private schools being one example that has got badly snagged by the lobbyists and vested interests. More recently, the announcement that new licensing controls would be introduced for short term lets on properties now looks to be at serious risk of dilution. Worth noting that when property owners in Amsterdam were required to register their short term letting businesses with the Council, Airbnb lost 80% of its entries within 6 months. PLACE is hoping that Ministers will hold their nerve.
A staggering number of people are coming to Glasgow for the crucial climate talks. The number of official delegates alone is estimated at 25,000 and there’s an even greater number of lobbyists, activists, media and general camp followers. And without Covid, travel restrictions and the inevitable damp and cool November weather, those numbers would be even higher. While the eyes of the world will be trained on the world’s leaders in the hope that they can agree the necessary actions, there’s a lot more going on besides. For everything you ever wanted to know about COP (but were afraid to ask)
Ever since industrialisation took hold, our economy has been linear in nature. We extract raw materials, we make stuff with those raw materials, we use what we make and then we throw it away. And that is why, in large part, we are experiencing a climate and nature emergency and why we need to reshape every part of our economy away from being linear to one that aims to make waste the exception rather than the rule. This is the mission of one of SCA’s member networks, CRNS, who were commissioned recently to take a look at our creative industries.
Established in September 2003 the organisation evolved through the drive of the local housing provider and the need to focus on regeneration and service development for the community as a whole. Connect is a catalyst and key partner for activities that address a wide range of local people’s needs including training, education, social needs, financial literacy, health, wellbeing and employment. Activities include a walking club, elderly lunch club, dance, ICT courses, various social and community events/evenings, advice and support, youth drop-in, youth holiday programmes, music/recording studio, family excursions, family support, a wide variety of volunteering opportunities and confidence building initiatives.…Find out more