All I’m asking… is for a little respect

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Annie Gunner Logan demands respect for third sector partners as we begin to rebuild society

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2nd July 2020 by TFN Guest 3 Comments

“As we go through uncertain times, the role of the third sector in providing support, and also in trying to steer us in the right direction, will become ever more important.”

The first minister couldn’t have known, as she spoke these words at The Gathering back in February, just how uncertain the times were about to become; but she was absolutely correct in her assessment of the critical importance of our sector in what was to unfold only a few short weeks later.

The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery subsequently set up by the first minister continued this theme. According to its report published in June, “the crisis has revealed the depth and breadth of the reach of the third sector and the value of social care, and the importance of maintaining and enhancing these valuable assets.”

My own inbox contains several pieces of ministerial correspondence, most of which say something along the lines of the latest one received, to wit: “I want to record my thanks to you, and your members, for the ongoing commitment you show in delivering care in our communities across Scotland, especially now with the significant challenges we face during this crisis.”

Annie Gunner Logan

Annie Gunner Logan

Have our organisations and our staff been supported, valued and sustained? Hmmm. From where I’m standing, not so much.

Third sector care and support organisations have risen magnificently to the occasion and have done an absolutely phenomenal job during what has been, for all of us, the most stressful episode in any of our working lives. And, I might add, it’s not over yet. #NeverMoreNeeded, indeed.

Has this been recognised by those in power? Yes it has. Has our contribution been acknowledged and praised? For sure. Have we been referred to throughout as key colleagues and partners? Many times.

Have our organisations then, and our staff, been appropriately supported, valued and sustained? Hmmm. From where I’m standing, not so much.

We’ve been promised resources for staff pay increases; we’ve been promised financial support to cover our additional Covid-related costs. Multi-millions have been distributed to local authorities and partnerships for these express purposes.

Yet very little, if any, of that money has filtered through to organisations at the sharp end, despite the sums involved having been agreed and announced months ago.

And yet I know of no public body that hasn’t already implemented pay increases for its own staff; that isn’t funding the ‘sunk costs’ of its own suspended services; that hasn’t offered full financial protection to its own shielding staff.

So why aren’t they doing the same for their third sector partners? Reader, I’ve asked them. More than that, in truth; I have forgotten my manners, and railed at them during one of the seemingly endless series of Covid-related planning meetings I’ve been involved in of late.

If we are genuinely “all in it together”, now would be a really good time to show it

The way that third sector providers are treated is absolutely shameful, I ranted. Everything we’ve always said about this being a two-tier system is true and the pandemic has, as with so much else, thrown it into exquisitely sharp relief.

And another thing, I raved: our principal concern isn’t that our organisations are treated as second-class, we’re used to that. It’s that by extension, so are the citizens we support. It’s shameful, and it’s discriminatory to boot.

To my amazement, nobody put up a fight. None of the customary excuses were proffered. Quite the reverse: I was invited to a further focused discussion with officials and representatives from the key leadership bodies concerned, where we had a candid and indeed a cordial exchange resulting in a much better mutual understanding of the respective challenges we are each facing, and a clear set of actions to resolve the problems.

It is, as they say, good to talk. So let me say for the record that I absolutely understand the acute financial (and other!) pressures that public authorities are under; and I absolutely understand their need to “follow the public pound”.

But this is the moment, if ever there was one, for our public sector colleagues to demonstrate what partnership really means. Mutual trust, mutual respect, shared objectives, equitable approaches across sectors, all of that. If we are genuinely “all in it together”, now would be a really good time to show it.

So I’m hopeful. But we’ll see. The frustration of having our proud third sector selves treated as distinctly second-class characters has not in any way been relieved by some of our most senior political leaders and their acolytes popping up in the midst of all this to imply that regardless of our almost superhuman efforts in the last four months, and the astonishing dedication and commitment of our workforce to the people they support, we shouldn’t be operating anyway, and everything we do would be better taken “in-house” and delivered by the public sector under a new National Care Service.

And they’ve chosen to say this now, when our staff are exhausted, having knocked their pans in at considerable personal risk rather than abandon the people they support; and when our sector leaders have been working night and day to keep the care & support show on the road in the face of a series of extraordinary (and ongoing) challenges.

I’m told that some of those who are proposing to write us out of the brave new future are regular readers of TFN. In which case, can I just say, in all seriousness: how dare you?

3rd July 2020 by Marie Millar

I’ve been absolutely flabbergasted at the lack of responsiveness from Scottish Government officials in comparison to the voluntary sector. We’ve had warm words and committees, but as always procurement is the excuse that civil servants hide behind. How can we have the DWP and HMRC being so flexible but not do the same here? The world has turned upside down - and all we’re being told to do is be kind.

3rd July 2020 by George Welsh

Well said Annie.

3rd July 2020 by Sarah Murray

Thank you for this Annie, you have put my thoughts into very eloquent words. I have worked for the 3rd Sector for over twenty years and love it. I love the fact that I can make a difference every day - something that I could not do when I worked for the Local Authority. things have changed in the last twenty years, but not for the better. 3rd Sector always loses out and is taken for granted. 'Don't worry, they can still do the same thing with less money'. And in a lot of instances we do, not because we were getting paid too much in the first place, but because we care about the people we have been supporting and know how badly they need our services. We in the 3rd Sector are more than aware that money does not grow in trees, but Government and Local Authorities need to remember that it is OUR money, and the communities we support who provide that money and we should be respected and treated as an equal. Without us, they are nothing. Rant over smile