At the time of writing the coalition Government has outlined the cuts it proposes to make in order to balance the country’s books, and for everyone there is some pain – with more for some than for others. In child care services we are seeing quangos ended, Sure Start centres being reduced, tightening of benefits, and so on. As professionals, quite a number will no doubt be made redundant or not replaced, and the workload will be harder for those still working, with fewer resources available to meet people’s needs. The detail of the cuts will be rolled out over coming months, and times may well be hard for longer than the life of this Parliament.
We need to take care, though, not to become despondent. The belt-tightening which is being proposed will set us back a few years, but we shall only be going back to where we were a few years ago. If you read Lucy Faithfull’s biography, reviewed in this issue, you can see the terrible poverty which she had to cope with as a young professional in the 1930s. If you go to many developing countries today, standards are worlds away from those we shall have to live with in the post-cuts era. We do need a sense of proportion.
We also need to remain positive in using the resources we have as well as we can. Service users need their professionals to retain a sense of positive purpose if they are to feel supported and to develop hope themselves. Get angry with the Government if you wish, but make sure that children, young people and their families don’t suffer any backlash or sense despair.
Historically it has been at times of economic difficulty that some of the best businesses have been founded. It is adversity which has led many of the great welfare reformers to create new services and think up new approaches. Thomas Coram, Rev Stephenson and Dr Barnardo did not sit on their hands when they saw the misery of the children whose needs they fought to meet. South Africa today has massive social problems but has come up with creative ideas to meet them. (If you want to learn about them you still have time to book and join the other 400+ people at the FICE Congress in Cape Town in December.)
Finally, it is the responsibility of all professionals to keep themselves up to date, to keep on learning life-long – to read, to go on courses, to attend conferences, to join professional debates. It is not necessary to rely on employers to spoon-feed. This issue of the Webmag focuses on reading, and there is a real risk that professionals en masse – and as individuals – are not reading enough, whether to learn the lessons from the past or picking up the latest ideas.
We don’t recall who said, “When times get tough, the tough get going”, but it applies now. Cuts should not be an excuse for inaction, but a spur to creativity and greater professionalism.