I could cry – not only because of sadness but with frustration and anger at how disposable people have become in the world of charity and business.
It’s Friday night and I should be out enjoying myself at the end of a busy week – but instead I’m at home feeling concern for the clients who were signed up to begin a new life with skills and experiences to help keep them on the right track, for two staff who face redundancy two days before Christmas, for the volunteers who enlisted their services in a project to help others in their recovery from being affected by drugs and / or alcohol and lastly for ourselves as facilitators in a highly successful, one-of-its-kind, truly collaborative project based in East Ayrshire – and probably the best the West of Scotland has ever seen. Here’s what Ayrshire MSP (now MP) Cathy Jamieson had to say about it in 2009 – MSP Commends Ayrshire Alcohol Project
The reason for this is allegedly a lack of funding. Funding which was there in September when we were asked to run Programme 14, somehow was no longer available in November – so the plug gets pulled on everyone by the parent organisation Momentum Skills, five days before it was due to start.
I’ve been with the Accelerate Project since before it even took on this form, all fourteen programmes ago! It was initiated through our experiences of what worked with clients and implemented by a former Project Manager, who was made redundant in a very untimely and unprofessional manner, almost three weeks into Programme 8 – with no warning or notice and unceremoniously ordered to leave the premises that same day. This later led to an industrial tribunal, settled out of court with only days to spare, in favour of the ejected manager.
There were two attempted suicides by extremely vulnerable service-users who were devastated by the news that services were being removed. They were unable to cope with the stress of having nowhere to turn and it all proved just a bit too much for them.
Clients and volunteers were confused, anxious and uncertain of their future. There were tears and tension from nearly all involved.
This is what happens when we play with people’s lives.
The entire service was in chaos with no management present to deal with what ensued after the course was stopped.
The two remaining staff, one in admin (supporting clients) and the other fully supporting clients, were massively under pressure and expected to carry on as if nothing had happened, without the support they needed themselves.
After a huge outcry, the course sessions were re-instated and the programme continued, managed from a distance.
Is this giving you an idea of what working in this sector is sometimes like?
Client referrals came from a variety of sources like Social Services, the NHS and various drug and alcohol agencies in and around the area. The reason for this is that the Accelerate project provided valuable skills which were not available anywhere else; the development of people using a variety of disciplines brought people into their personal power, helping a high percentage of participants access work, training or education at the end of it; something that hadn’t really been done before.
So would you be surprised now to find that none of the above agencies fund or have funded any part of the project?
It seems that they have no money, no budget for referring people with complex mental health problems, abuse, neglect, imprisonment or addiction / recovery disadvantage AND now nowhere to refer onto, to deal with those people effectively; empowering them to cope with life and take responsibility for all aspects of their lives, with the care and compassion they so desperately need.
Many of our clients present one, some or all of the above mentioned problems and have had no life-skills training prior to joining the course. Some have never had a memorable positive experience, yet they can turn their lives around after only ten weeks with us.
Funding for initiatives like these has come from the European Social Fund and small pots of money from smaller funders. A recent Big Lottery bid which was in part informed by us as facilitators, hangs precariously in the balance. When the service closes where does that money get diverted to? Could it be another project in a different location in Ayrshire – a replacement project in the making? Robbing the proverbial Peter to pay Paul…
What’s wrong here?
We’ve lost the plot, that’s what’s wrong! Not only do we have a culture of ‘profit before people’ but we’re allowing organisations to drop those they serve, when it suits – or rather, no longer suits the business purpose. We as a society are no longer able to support others. It’s as simple as that, yet the big organisations have the audacity to accept Investors in People awards!
How are we going to deal with the problems arising tomorrow, when we can’t focus and fix any of the problems of today?
What seems to be forgotten or overlooked in all of this is this; some of the people we work with are young – not even reached their twenties and we’re abandoning them. We’re cursing them to live a life of unnecessary torture – and what’s worse is that it’s all avoidable, while we have the means to make a difference in a positive way for ordinary people, for their families and in the wider community. These people are also our future. I think it’s our duty to do the best we can.
Human Potential Training is exactly that – training to achieve our fullest potential as a human being. It’s not the be-all and end-all of everything but combine it with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) Drama, Communication skills and a few recognised certificates in First Aid, Fire Safety, and Food & Hygiene, and you’ll begin to see the whole picture.
Can the loss of this service be justified – by anyone?
Only those who say that it’s business – the business of helping people back into well-ness; back into balance, where responsibility is not an after-thought or consequence. It’s not profitable like most other businesses are but it is vital!
The total cost of running one ten-week Accelerate programme is under £20k – staffing costs included, so if any wonderfully, philanthropic big hearts out there want to help us help the people of East Ayrshire, get in touch – we’re all ears!