More CutsWednesday 3rd June 2015
Steve talks about how we reacted at Trinity when the first round of austerity measures left many charities fighting over the same diminishing funds to run our services.
Never accept the premise of the question. Our most significant question in the last few years was: “Would you like to tender to run the service that you yourselves set up 20 years ago when we didn’t know what to do or how to do it, but you have been running it extremely well for the whole of this time but now others should be given the opportunity to run it so we can save money?”
Okay, so I used some artistic license, but this is basically what happened to the majority of providers when they squeeze was put on the public purse. Millions of pounds was made by bid writers, tender writers, consultants and anyone who jumped on the ‘let’s change what we do to get the money’ band wagon. Big organisations have got bigger and their New Business Departments grew to meet the new demands. The very people that depend on us have been short-changed as contracts stipulate less about what’s delivered and more about how much it costs. I have nothing against big organisations, we need big organisations, and we were inevitably going to be out bid by one that can spread overheads through the benefit of scale.
We didn’t wait to lose this battle – we created Plan B.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Plan B turned out better than tendering to deliver the Commissioner’s version of what our service should look like. Plan B helped us discover how to really embrace one of our founding principles: true independence means paying your own way. Plan B gave us freedom from contracts and external standards – we are happy to be held to a standard, just not a lower one.
Plan B made us masters of our own destiny. We have replaced £1.5m of funding through generating our own income. We’ve increased our income by 20% and decreased relative costs by 10% – all whilst housing three times the number of people.
Does it work? We asked our ex-residents. A 30% response found that 100% are still housed two years later and 60% are working to maintain their independence.
A strategy to deal with more cuts by fighting colleagues for what funding is left or to beg for the crumbs that fall from their table is not worthy of the people we are working alongside.
We don’t give advice; but … if what you’re doing isn’t working for you then you should do something else. Just as we are a model of change for the people we work alongside every day we also model change in how our organisation is run.