It’s good to see media support for drug and alcohol funding, although of course sad that the stark drug related deaths figures released this week were needed to bring this about. Drug related deaths are an indicator of the increasing pressures but are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg.
It’s always helpful to have the profile of this issue raised but important to read the comments I made in context. On June 21st I made a deputation on behalf of the Substance Use Network Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Mental Health Forum to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB) in opposition to a proposal to absorb underspend from two streams of Scottish Government funding into the IJB’s deficit – £1.78m in total. This proposal was particularly hard to take because the underspend had been incurred due to the IJB not considering spending plans immediately after they were prepared almost a year before.
The in depth discussion that followed the deputation was balanced and considered. Members of the IJB decided to reject the proposal to direct the funding towards the overall deficit. They indicated support for the money being spent on what it was intended for, and a recognition of the level of need for these services. We need to get final sign off on spending the funds at the August IJB meeting, and we look forward to being able to improve the outcomes for the people this funding was intended for.
I can’t pretend to support or understand the decisions that took place leading to the delay in considering the spending plans and to proposing that the money be diverted elsewhere. But I do understand the degree of pressure on the IJB to support increasing levels of need with an ever tighter budget.
It’s yet another painful demonstration of the inevitable impacts of austerity. In May the UN Poverty Rapporteur described a nation with a ‘harsh and uncaring ethos’ that I felt ashamed to be part of. Numbers of homeless people are rising and the health challenges associated with this are predictably dire. This week we’re struck by drug related deaths. It won’t stop until we recognise that austerity is at the heart of all these issues, and that public services can never be slashed without devastating human consequences.
You can watch the deputation and discussion here.
Maria Arnold, Senior Development Worker (Adult Health & Wellbeing)