Thursday, 9 February 2017

Meeting tonight to plan campaign on Harrow voluntary sector cuts

From Harrow Association of Disabled People

Harrow Association  of Disabled People (HAD) are holding a public meeting this tonight  7pm after our Board meeting in the Red Brick Cafe, 38-40 High Street, Wealdstone. It is aimed at discussing the implications of Harrow Council’s changes to the way that it’s funding some of the work of local charities.

We also want to discuss campaigning together and more generally as a voluntary sector within Harrow.

HAD will lose nearly £100K in the move from grant and SLA funding (“Service Level Agreement” a form of direct funding from a particular Council department). Many other charities will also lose. Attached is a list, taken from recent cabinet papers, of what other charities received this financial year in the way of SLA and/or grant funding and assumedly, what they will lose next year. Apologies for any errors in the list, I tried to combine the total effects from several tables.

HAD are particularly concerned about the loss of direct funding for Gladys Janes and Fatima Walji our Welfare Benefit Advice workers. The SLA from Harrow Council that enables us to run the service has been cut over the years to the current level of £27K. Harrow’s direct funding for this service is to finish at the end of April 2017.  Gladys and Fatima see nearly 1,000 new clients each year and help them to gain over £1 million in disability welfare benefits that disabled people need to ensure that they can live independently and with dignity. The team help with the complex and long application forms, help with the appeals, and if necessary represent them at tribunals (where there are currently winning over 85% of cases). Many of their clients are referred from other local charities and If we lose their services it will be a great loss to the whole voluntary sector in Harrow.

The Council are proposing to move any money that they have for delivery of services through the local Voluntary Service into their "Commissioning" group. This will mean holding competitive bids through their “Commissioning Systems” that local Charities, and others, will have to bid for. Last week, HAD made representations to Harrow Council, who are themselves facing swingeing cuts from Central Government, to discuss this, and to present what HAD believes are better choices for achieving this. We have a meeting with Michael Lockwood scheduled for next week and this open meeting will help us to prepare for it.

Please come along, Nigel Long (HAD’s Chief executive) and I will outline the Council’s proposed changes, outline our alternatives and I’ll chair a discussion.  Nigel has around 30 years experience as a local Councillor in Milton Keynes, many of those years as a Cabinet Member. I have some years experience working on, and within, public procurement systems.

Bill Phillips

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