Thursday, March 19, 2009

The challenge of getting things right

Another Street Carer's Forum Representative Group meeting tonight, with leaders of the City Council's HANR team, to review development proposals which have the potential to lead to a working partnership between voluntary and statutory carers for the homeless and vulnerably housed people of the City. This is requiring patient and careful consideration on both sides to ensure that something durable, and yet dynamic enough to respond to changing circumstances can be created. It's not easy because there are sensitivities and cautions in place on all sides. Exactly how it should be in dealing with the neediest and most dysfunctional of citizens.

Recently there has been much concern about the collapse of a housing enterprise which aimed to cater for people trying to get off the streets, or coping with broken lives after addiction or prison. What seemed to be working well and responding successful to need has been tried and found wanting, deficient by design, without necessary safeguards in the face of changing government policy or economic downturn. The local press gave this matter sensationalist coverage which was factually incorrect, adding to the worries of those doing crisis management, heading off evictions and the prospect of an eventual increase of the numbers of people in need of accommodation.

Cardiff has a good record at getting vulnerable and needy people housed within a short turn around period. This winter was the first time for some years in which the demand for emergency accommodation could not be met. There's a rise in people ending up on the city streets, because of the recession. Some have been encouraged to migrate from other local authority areas into the Cardiff, on the presumption that services here are better able to cope. Is anybody in the WAG aware of this, and questioning what's happening? With the Spring weather, things are perhaps a little less difficult at the moment, but there's still the prospect of many more getting evicted because of the collapse of one key providor.

I've never enjoyed working under the constraints of bureaucracy, but I've had to learn in order to survive in my job let alone my life in general. I've come to understand there are two kinds. Both can be equally complex and difficult to navigate, but one is fit for purpose, the other isn't. Fitness is about being flexible, able to adapt to change with accuracy and sustainability in response to need. Systems that are unfit can be self serving, or serve no purpose that relates to the realities they are meant to deal with. Large organisations contain a mix of both, and how hard it can be to reform them in order to optimise resources and opportunities.

As I head towards the last year of my working life in public office, I can see these things with a degree of clarity that was misted by the frustrations of not being able to navigate confidently through established channels when I was younger. All a bit too late to be of any use. Wisdom after the event. Ah well .... c'est la vie.

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