Days in Other Worlds
I had the opportunity to spend several days with a senior civil servant and was intrigued as how this world existed. Working in the charity sector I was hoping to gain some insight into how they work. I work for a regional charity not big not small.
My thoughts of my days with them, well, my first thought was that the people I met knew nothing about small or medium sized charities. They all knew about the big charities, anything less than a national charity slipped off the radar.
Meetings, the days seem to be spent wandering from meeting to meeting to try and impose some order on a slightly chaotic world. Homelessness seemed to baffle everyone, that there is a desperate need for housing yes, how to provide it seemed beyond their comprehension. In a meeting with lots of local authorities, the major issue was accommodation. When a specific type of family was mentioned i.e. one with more than two children, there appeared to be genuine anxiety of how they could find a three bedroom flat or even a house. Strange to think Her Majesty’s Government blocked in its endeavours by its inability to find a three bedroom house or flat. I did wonder why the Local Authorities did not all say they were banks, then billions of pounds would have been thrown their way in a matter of hours.
At another meeting there was a group of providers who were in discussion how they would cope with the cuts. There were long discussions on the potential of raising money from a variety of different and often hopeful means. Out of ear shot of the civil servants the providers were stating that they were only there due to the cuts that theses civil servants were instituting.
There appears to be a terrible dysfunction in the civil servants understanding of the real world of charities. To small and medium sized charities words such as ethics, morality and care are critical but do not appear to be part of their vocabulary. Recently I met the manager of a very small regional charity who works with a CRC. The CRC is changing their contract and they, the charity, have decided to fold rather than accept the new contract. They found the new contract unethical and were not prepared to compromise their principles. When I told this story there was a complete lack of understanding or comprehension, no discussion lets move on.
On my final day, there was discussion on the blooming charity sector, ever expanding. However in the company I was in I hated to point out that your local rugby club is likely to be a charity or that Eton is a charity or Liverpool Hope University. Charities to me mean they offer a service to anyone in the community with making a financial assessment and their number is shrinking. As I left I was told of the passion and commitment of the civil servants I had met, I could not give them the answer they wanted as I wondered what the passion and commitment was to? This government, their minister, their job or perhaps they should give it to the people they serve the community.
So what does this mean to the TR agenda? I suspect very strongly after my visits that they, the senior civil servants involved, were never interested in discussing TR unless you were a large multinational who had made donations to whatever government is in power.
A long time ago I worked for the Probation Service. I was very proud of the service we offered.