Saturday, 30 October 2010

Care Credits

I woke up this morning to the news that the Government is considering a system of 'Care Credits' which has apparently operated in Japan since 1991.

Just to summarize the idea is that volunteers providing care build up 'credits' which they themselves can use. In Japan this can be either themselves or a relative and the credits seem to be weighted towards tasks such as personal care as opposed to shopping and towards unsocial hours.

Even stranger on BBC breakfast none other than Professor Heinz Wolff (last seen in this Nintendo DS puzzle game). Presumably Heinz Wolff was there to lend some intellectual gravitas to what is a scheme worthy of a mad professor.

I don't know where to begin with picking apart this policy. It could be that Japan is a very different society to our own so the success of a policy there is little guarantee of success elsewhere. It could also be that the system will favour certain social groups above others; particularly those rich in both free time and cultural capital.

I would rather though focus on the role of professional carers. Whilst the voluntary sector in my area did take over the nicer aspects of care; shopping, hoovering, dog walking and luncheon clubs where (generally) elderly ladies would gather for a nice chat over a cup of tea, the professional sector did the hard jobs; the personal care which could be anything from changing incontinence pads to bathing or applying cream, helping to manage medication, as well as dealing with difficult clients and when I say difficult I do mean difficult.

The job of a professional carer requires a high degree of skill and dedication. This is matched by a high level of responsibility and accountability. Sadly the pay and social status (of both paid and unpaid carers) lag far behind. This has led us to believe that the carers job is something which could be done by anybody.

It isn't.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

lean and efficient?

A piece in the New Statesman recently caught my eye (yes I do read publications other than the Guardian!)

An interesting aspect of the piece is its questioning of the universities actions in seeking to appoint someone to what tends to be referred to as a 'non-job' i.e a role in a public organisation which serves little real purpose. All the more perplexing, the article suggests, is that this appointment is taking place amidst a back-drop of a major funding review. Fiddling as Rome burns.

It makes me wonder just how valid the arguments are that cutting funding, or the threat of, increases efficiency out of pure necessity. Is the reality somewhat more complex than this? It certainly seems a caricature that well funded organisations are bloated and inefficient; like a 18th century baron with a bad case of gout whereas less well funded organisations are by extention lean and effective.

Could the case simply be bad management and a failing organisational structure which fails to recognise its priorities? If so will funding cuts not make this situation worse??

Monday, 11 October 2010

the long-term view

Way back in 1997 tuition fees were introduced at the level of £1000 per course per year. Just over a decade later and fees are over £3000 per year. Tomorrow we may even see the cap lifted completely allowing top universities to charge five figure sums for courses.

Sometimes we need to take a long-term view of developments. Very rarely will the true extent of a change in policy be apparent at first; this especially goes in areas which are politically sensitive. Take the ending universality of child benefit. The argument is that top rate taxpayers can do without it. Of course they probably can, but the loss of the universality principle introduces the potential for the eligibility criteria to be progressively tightened leading to groups lower on the income scale losing out.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Dr Beeching returns

One of my great loves is cycling. I love the relaxation which comes from just being on my bike out in the back of beyond. Many of my routes make use of the railway lines which have been disused since the axe of Dr Beeching fell upon them. With their gentle gradients they make for great cycling, but one part of me always feels a hint of sadness. As a cyclist I'm all for sustainable transport and I can never get away from the feeling that the Beeching axe in its reactionary short-sightedness robbed us all of a future which would have been a bit better than today.

As I hear more and more political rhetoric piling up about cuts, the savings which need to be made, the fact that it can't go on like this, there is no alternative... this is the future. Part of me can't help thinking of Dr Beeching. Is this the fate which awaits the welfare state?