Friday, April 11, 2008

The poor you have with you always

At the end of the afternoon I joined the farewell party for Steve Hyde, until recently manager of the city centre social services homelessness team. After eleven years building up an outstandingly effective and innovative cross disciplinary team, Steve has parted company with the Council to go freelance as an expert consultant. Behind his decision lies a policy disagreement over reforming ideas now being implemented by the Council, proposing a shiny new scheme that is designed to be cost-effective, but is untested in practice. In the end, I guess you can't lead in an organisation that you don't any longer believe in, especially if you're a man of principle.

Before his recent acceptance of a 'redundancy' package, Steve won awards as Wales' Achiever of the Year, and the Council 'Best Employee of the Year' award. It's a measure of his success as a leader and innovator. He's a man who has kept faith with those he serves, and refused to embroil himself in the political background of life in local government. It remains to be seen whether the shiny new scheme turns out to be as effective in serving its clientele, as the scheme it replaces.

While we were chatting, Steve pointed out to me one of the team who is a nurse practitioner serving street people. "This afternoon", said Steve, "one of his clients had a cardiac arrest and died in his arms. That's the second for him in a fortnight." Apparently an average of four rough sleepers a year die on Cardiff streets - young druggies, old winos - people known and unknown to the street carer community. Looking back recently at eighteenth century St John's church records, it seems it was the same then. Anonymous destitute strangers found dead in an alley, or fished out of the Taff, drowned. Around two dozen people every year are 'buried on the rates' as I've heard older working class people describe a funeral paid for by the Council's Bereavement Services. What the Parish used to offer - the pauper's funeral.

No comments: