The next three to five years will see considerable change in social policy and in the public finances. Traditional models of service delivery will be challenged, and there is every possibility that the entitlement to welfare benefits and public services will no longer be the automatic right that we have come to expect.
I mentioned the prospect of a group or groups being excluded from benefit entitlement to some members of staff. One came back to me and said it was inconceivable that any group would be denied entitlement to assistance from the state en bloc. He was taken aback when I said this was already the case for failed asylum seekers who were not being deported because their countries of origin were too unsafe.
Like all other public and third sector organisations, BHT can expect to see traditional income levels fall and the value of public contracts reduce. Actions taken during 2009/10 will assist BHT to manage these changes, although it will not make us immune from them.
There will also be opportunities, as services will be reconfigured and recommissioned to take into account evolving need and political priorities, and where a new relationship will develop between the state and those receiving services and support through the welfare benefit system.
BHT must now take further steps to prepare itself to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Actions taken should include:
- preparing the policy and ethical ground to respond to new opportunities that might previously not have been considered;
- reviewing how we present the organisation in an ever changing world (not least technologically) so that it continues to be seen as an entity that people wish to work with;
- reviewing our capacity to respond to and deliver growth opportunities; and
- establishing management and governance structures that allows us to respond to growth opportunities.
These are some of the issues that I am exploring as I prepare papers for BHT’s Board away day in a couple of weeks. There is nothing fundamentally flawed about BHT, but unless we prepare for a very different landscape that will emerge over the next three years, we, like any other organisation, might find over time that we have left it too late to adapt.