WRDA has submitted evidence to all 5 consultations by health and social care trusts on their proposed savings plans. We are joining with the trade unions in calling on the Department of Health to halt this process and access the money that has already been committed to investing in health and social care services.
5 th October 2017
Dear Chief Executive,
This response to the consultation on the Financial Planning Savings Plan 2017/18 is on behalf of the Women’s Resource and Development Agency.
The Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA) is a regional organisation operating across Northern Ireland, with a mission to advance women’s equality and participation in society by working to transform political, economic, social and cultural conditions. The organisation was established in 1983 and focuses on working with women and community organisations located in disadvantaged and rural areas. WRDA is a membership organisation with over 190 members including women’s groups, organizations and individual members.
As a leadership organisation within the women’s sector we aim to present the concerns of women in the community and evaluate policy with a view to ensuring women’s rights and equality are protected. As we consider the current proposals that the Belfast Trust has presented we are deeply concerned. It is our view that the £70 million of in year cuts demanded by the Department of Health are not driven by necessity and they are completely at odds with the needs of service users.
WRDA echoes the position expressed by the trade unions through the NIC-ICTU Health Committee who have directed their response to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Health and challenged his decision to impose these cuts on the trusts. We share their disgust that the decision making of the Department appears to not only breach their own Equality Scheme but also comes at a time when we know additional funding has been committed for health and social care services. In addition to the recent announcement of increased spending on the Health Service in England which would translate to an increase in the Northern Ireland allocation, these cuts come in the aftermath of a promised £200 million for health and social care in the DUP/Conservative deal at Westminster. We are also mindful of the agreement by the Executive back in May of last year to spend an extra £200 million on health each year and the £40 million already agreed to address the transformation issues raised in the Bengoa report.
For years now anti-austerity voices such as the women’s sector having been highlighting that the narrative which suggests there is no alternative to cutting public services is a false one. Never has there been such as stark example of the unnecessary, political nature of spending cuts as this current crisis in the health service. The public are not fooled – it is clear from the examples above that there is money to spend on these vital services and it is simply not being accessed by those with decision making power.
For this reason WRDA supports the position of NIC-ICTU that the public consultation is no more than a sham. Asking worried and vulnerable service users to argue against the loss of the services that will most affect them is irresponsible and quite disgusting in light of the political backdrop and the unnecessary imposition of the in-year cuts.
We are calling on you as Chief Executive, along with your colleagues in the other trusts, to demonstrate the leadership that is required to halt this current process. We will be writing to the Department for Health in recognition of the responsibility held by the Permanent Secretary for this current crisis. We will also be calling on all political representatives to end the political stalemate that has led to this vacuum of accountability for public spending. But we would also like to see the Chief Executives take a similar approach to that of the school principals who in April of this year refused to implement the Department of Education’s budget. They wrote a public letter outlining their opposition to the budget which they described as ‘untenable’ and ‘seriously damaging their pupils’ education’. These principals had the courage to risk their own reputations as they were effectively declaring that they would have to plan for ‘deficit budget positions’ in order to meet their children’s needs. They told the department they would be spending what was required and put the ball back into their court to come up with a ‘meaningful and sensible budget.’
What is needed at this crisis point in the health service is not a conversation about which services should be cut first. The delivery of health and social care is already at breaking point due to chronic underfunding. To make further cuts as the winter months approach is alarming and unacceptable. What we need is for leaders in health and social care to demonstrate courage and send a message to the Department that this process will place you in breach of your own equality schemes and your duty to your service users.
Women’s Sector Lobbyist