Mixed blessings

I know I should be pleased after the recent chaos with the news
that £20m has been found to “steady the ship”. If only it were
that simple.

A service provider who had seen the national publicity about the
reduction in previously announced cuts was quick to phone. He
asked: “Does this mean we are now going to get what you said we
were going to get, before the letter you sent which said, ‘please
don’t panic, but you may not get what we said you would get’.” His
confusion goes to the core of the recent uncertainty: “Am I hiring
or firing today?” I promised to write soon with their third
definitely “definite” allocation for 2004-5.

Ironically one of the causes of the financial difficulties was the
channelling of CF monies into “street crime initiatives”. The
recent cash grab was indeed a bit like being mugged. Except that in
this case my purse was returned a month later with most, but not
all of the money in it, which would be unusual on the street. First
reaction to the return of the purse was: “What a bonus, I’ve got
back the creased pictures of my kids, those five
pence-off-a-litre-of-petrol vouchers and some of the money. So
things were not as bad as I had feared, but still there is no cause
for a celebration. Some great services still feel vulnerable and
uncertain, trust is a problem and as a children’s domestic violence
worker said to me – it all now feels a bit tainted.

People ask how I am managing the uncertainty and pressure – comfort
eating is definitely getting the better of me. My car is littered
with calorie-intake debris and resembles a park bin. On a recent
visit to the shop near the office the person behind the counter
said they did not have the biscuits I was looking for, before I had
asked for them.

Hearing that a flurry of legal claims by those alleging trauma and
emotional damage following Janet Jackson’s over-exposure at the
Superbowl, I wondered about making a claim against the Department
for Education and Skills. I have honestly laid awake thinking about
Margaret Hodge being grilled on Question Time about my failing
complexion and expanding waistline. “Answer the question minister”
says Dimbleby…”What responsibility do you take for the bags under
these eyes and the fact that a belt is no longer required?”

Amazingly, I am still fielding calls and correspondence from those
keen to take a punt that we may have some “money to get rid of”.
The ones who are testing my powers of self-restraint are the
supposed cutting edge consultants who promise they can reach our
hard-to-reach and or give what we do the profile it deserves. Sorry
pal, but unless you specialise in plain chocolate hobnobs you’re
wasting your time. Cheers.

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