This week sees the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review, and I must admit that I await the detail with some trepidation. BHT has long been aware that we, as a country, would be facing difficult times. Indeed, at BHT we began preparing for this moment two years ago. We examined our cost base, and made some very painful decisions regarding the salaries we pay. We have made strenuous efforts to increase our income, and have made some bold steps in the direction of creating profitable social enterprises.
During this time, and in the months and years ahead, it is the ongoing support we receive from individuals, church and community groups that make the difference for many of our services. As a result of your generosity and support, we are possibly better placed than many other charities to cope with even quite dramatic cuts. We are determined to do what we can to safeguard the services we provide to vulnerable men and women.
I take comfort from the pledge made by the Prime Minister in Downing Street shortly after the Coalition Government was formed. David Cameron said: “I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail, the poorest in our country. We must take everyone through with us on some of the difficult decisions we have ahead. Above all it will be a government that is built on some clear values. Values of freedom, values of fairness, and values of responsibility.”
BHT doesn’t provide any specific services to the elderly, but we do a lot with and for the frail and the poorest. And the values of fairness and of responsibility run through our veins.
So, what do I hope and fear about Wednesday’s announcements? I have three key issues I will be listening out for.
The first is housing benefit. The changes in entitlement to housing benefit already announced remains a major cause for concern, but I hope that high rent areas like Brighton and Hove will receive some extra support to prevent the otherwise inevitable rise in homelessness.
Secondly, I hope that the value of fairness will ensure legal aid will still be there to prevent homelessness, tackle debt, and sort out welfare benefit problems. This is specialist work and the social return on investment is enormous. If these specialist services provided by the CAB, BHT and others are cut, we will see the consequences for many years to come.
Finally, I hope to see that the elderly, the frail and the poorest in our country will still be able to receive support through the very excellent services funded through the Supporting People programme. This budget has already been significantly reduced in recent years. There is little, if any more, to give. I feel so strongly that the most vulnerable men and women in our society must continue to be supported to remain in their homes, to move to greater independence, and are supported into training, education and employment.
By Wednesday evening we will no longer have to speculate.