Monday, 28 June 2010

Southwark Circle

Almost a year ago, I picked up a leaflet full of recipe ideas at the Bermondsey Street Festival, which had been produced by Southwark Circle, a membership organisation open to anyone living in Southwark over the age of 50.  Members get help with life's practical tasks, as and when they need it from a network of handy, local people called Neighbourhood Helpers who are CRB and reference checked. 

Anyway, I read today Madeleine Bunting's interesting article on welfare reform on the Guardian's Comment is Free site, highlighting the work done by Southwark Circle as a model of what good, thoughtful 'win,win' reform can look like.  

Contrast this article and the generally positive tone, with that of Diane Abbott's responding to a suggestion, that the unemployed might be encouraged to move to areas where work is available provided their social housing was also portable.   There's no question that she raises many issues which would make such a move unattractive to those affected.  But surely that cannot be a reason for not even considering it.  As Madeleine Bunting notes in relation to the Labour government:-

" its instincts were too closely bound up with using the state as the instrument to deliver services. But the consequences are that the "service user" becomes passive. If services are restricted, they have to exaggerate need to qualify, locking them into what can often be demoralising dependency".

Clearly the Labour government had run out of ideas but it's a bit depressing to note that none of the leadership contenders are offering anything fresh or at least are prepared to say it at this stage.

Surely innovation is what is required in order for those who are in need to receive the type of service they are entitled to.  One of the partners involved in the development of Southwark Circle is an organisation called Participle, also based in Tanner Street, Bermondsey.  They have set out their vision for 21st century public services in what they call Beveridge 4.0.

"Changes in society, demographics, lifestyle and availability of resources, have left us with services that are out of step with modern Britain. We need to stop patching and mending institutions and services designed for another era, the time has come to create something new. A radical new vision for our public services is required. 
We call our vision Beveridge 4.0."

Once again, Southwark leads the way. 

Oh, and what's that I hear you ask ?  Who was in charge when this innovative project was conceived and developed .....?  

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