As councils across the country ratify budgets laden with cuts to services and jobs. Swathes of pensioners, mums and dads students and youngsters started to interrupt the process, making sure that those in power ‘NOW’ knew, in no uncertain terms, the outrage of the general populous. It was a good sight to see.
But what are we doing in our own communities to help organisations that support People living with HIV? Are we doing enough? Are we just going too stand by as council’s steal cash earmarked for HIV/Aids support? Leaving many of the charities we have left, facing closure!
David Cameron vision of a BIG Society seems to centre on having an army volunteers busy in our communities ‘making a difference’! The idea that charitable organisations can provide this kind of ‘peer support’, in local areas without being properly financed to is both laughable and ludicrous.
The problem Mr Cameron has is that: his ‘deluded vision’ isn’t backed by the government’s policies. The Aids Support Grant that provided a vital funding stream for HIV charities, had its ring-fence removed last year and is now allocated via the your councils Formula Grant under HIV/AIDS Support.
If you want to find out how much your local authority is being allocated for HIV/Aids Support in 2011/12? Go to this link on NAT’s website (change the zoom percentage to 100%)
Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has asked local authorities to continue to support the voluntary sector, but this may be falling on death ears. And when you see large organisations like Citizens Advice Bureau planning to close operations across the country, you begin to understand the scale of the problem.
When you give cash strapped councils greater powers it becomes the people’s role to scrutinise. There is plenty of money being allocated, but how much of it actually trickles down to the services that we need and use? Lots of that money gets allocated to other local government support services like Social Work Teams! But when was the last time you got support form a Social Worker? It’s virtually impossible service to tap into in London now.
The point I am trying to make is: all HIV organisations large and small are probably going to face funding cuts. But it will be the small charities most dependant on the money that are most under threat. These organisations may find themselves last in the queue when it comes to divvying up the cash.
More than ever, I believe we need to support HIV charities and organisations that deliver essential services like: counselling, peer support, respite care, group work and support for carers.
We can bring about change by challenging MP’s, local councillors and community leaders. The government has already made a few u-turns. They’ve been won by groups and charities that have tirelessly campaigned against government reforms.
In the Welfare Reform Bill that was announced two weeks ago there was plenty of bad news. But there were some u-turns.
- The Lib-Con coalition ditched plans to reduce housing benefit by 10% if they were still out of work after one year.
- There was a u-turn on scraping the mobility element of DLA for people living in care homes.
On HIV social care I recently heard this story.
- The Brigstowe Project in Bristol recently fought off funding cuts by Bristol City Council after they proposed to cut – in full- their Supporting People grant, a decision that would have closed the charity. But with a strong campaign led by the centres manager and its many HIV-positive service users, the decision was overturned.
So if your thinking how can I really make a difference? Think again, you can.
Why not check in with your local charity to find out if they are being targeted with cuts. If they are, ask how you can best help.
Check out NAT’s HIV Activists Network it is packed with resources that can help you campaign for change on HIV Social Care and lots of other issues that affect people living with HIV. http://www.nat.org.uk/Living-with-HIV/HIV-activists.aspx
I hope I have got you all thinking about Activism.
PS if you are experiencing HIV-related symptoms that vary and change over time you may want to check out this survey by NAT. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/G89L86D