LifeLine Projects

Mind the Gap: Are the wheels coming off the system?

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the excellent BBC Sounds programme, World of Wisdom. On this episode, a listener called in with a problem concerning the 24-hour news cycle of the world we now live in. She said that all the negative reporting, especially of world conflicts, was making it hard for her to raise a child with a positive outlook.

Doomscrolling is a fairly new condition, where people become addicted and obsessed with negative and upsetting news. According to Ken Yeager, Clinical Professor at Ohio State University, doomscrolling is the modern-day equivalent of watching a train wreck.

And, right now, it seems the news is full of stories about everything falling apart. We have soaring cost of living, the country slumping into another recession, multiple conflicts on the international stage, local authorities going bankrupt, NHS waiting lists at unsustainable levels, workers going on strike, a mental health crisis for young people, and persistent absences from schools.

But the most worrying thing is this list is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s difficult to avoid the doom.

Analysis from Grant Thornton UK LLP suggests that more than one-in-five councils in England are at risk of financial failure within the next twelve months without additional income or further spending cuts. The analysis describes the current financial outlook for local councils in England as “alarming”, with 40% of councils at risk of financial failure over the next five years.

The UK charity Nesta has indicated that the COVID lockdown led to deterioration in pupil mental health and a cultural shift in attitudes towards attending school. It also claimed that reductions in school resources and new parental working patterns created conditions that have allowed attendance to deteriorate. Government data shows that school absence rate for any reason was 8.5% in 2022, in the six years prior to the pandemic, absence ranged between 4.5% and 4.8%.

The Office for National Statistics Britain also states that the UK is suffering the longest period of falling or stagnating living standards since records began in 1955. According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research the recovery of income distribution to pre-pandemic levels is not expected until 2027-28.

Charities could step in and stop the system from falling apart but this is not a viable long-term solution. The little funding charities have will eventually run out. Recent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies establishes that some local authorities are not being allocated funding according to the needs of their areas. London receives 11% more NHS funding than its share of estimated needs, and 6% more for public health, but 17% less for local government and 1% less for police. Questioning how funding is evaluated and ensuring that funds are relevant to local need must be the first step.

As I’ve said before, more personalised services are required to reflect the unique needs of the communities we serve. We must recognise there are opportunities for charities to invest in and create better solutions. The duty is on us is to be smarter with the funds we have. Charities have the knowledge, the know-how when it comes to the communities they are serving. If we use this information wisely, we can prioritise and identify what problems to solve more effectively.

The local authorities we work closely with look to us to help to fill in the gaps. For charities, this is not a new thing—but we can do what we’re doing better. Our vision is helping our communities by collaborating and working in partnership with other organisations. A partnership mentality requires us to support the needs of local authorities and for them to see us as part of the solution.

This approach was evident during the COVID lockdown and, in fact, was one of the few positives to come out of the crisis. NCVO reported in 2021 that over half of the charities surveyed said local authorities have become ‘more responsive’ to their needs during coronavirus, and many charities have increased their engagement with local government.

If we could only recreate that great team spirit and productivity from that period, we could achieve so much. It shouldn’t have to take a crisis for all of us to throw our lot in together.

Here are some tips for providing services in a time of instability:

Going back to World of Wisdom, Sister Dang Nghiem, a Buddhist nun, gave some advice to the listener—

All things exist in a state of interconnected being, interwoven and mutually dependent. We all have to do our part.

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Nathan Singleton

Chief Executive Officer
Nathan is passionate about improving the lives of young people and their families. Nathan draws from the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” He believes community is the component that is missing in the modern western society and the key component that would benefit young people. Nathan believes we are there, not just to help others but to support them to become agents of change within their communities.

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