Saturday, 24 July 2010

Missing, inaction

In all the excitement of Tynwald Day and other Manx events during July, an important change at two of our government’s pet ‘social service providers’ has gone un-noticed. Hard to know why, as the individual at the heart of the changes spent so much time in the office of the Director of Social Services it’s rumoured he kept a mug there (who the public pays a £100K+ salary).
It was known for months beforehand that Nigel Collins was leaving the island this summer. See for example.
The thing is, Nigel and Lynne ran the local branch of the Salvation Army, which has had a strict policy since the 19th century of rotating officers every few years to stop things getting too stale. They were sent here specifically because previously they’d run the SA’s largest UK homelessness shelter, and David Gray House (the island’s only bail hostel, and run by the Salvation Army) was - to be blunt - not working.
Incidentally, though both shared skills and duties equally (as is usual SA practice), because the island is in a sexist timewarp Nigel had to be the public face as the Rotary Club and other causes of social inequality still don’t know how to deal with girlies. For the same reason it was Nigel who was then ‘suggested’ by one of his employees at a regional Rotary club night where the management committee for Kemmyrk (the government run ‘independent’ homelessness charity) was decided – even before the steering committee which officially set things up had a chance to consider possible candidates.
So, DGH now lacks a Salvation Army officer to oversee things 'officially’ - thus distancing the DHA (Department of Home Affairs) staff who dictate policy decisions. And Kemmyrk lacks a chairman, with the possibility that the temporary replacement may lack even a basic grounding in either homelessness in general or the particular difficulties faced by the Manx homeless (some, it must be said, actually caused by those who control that charity). Additionally, the replacements for the Collins’s are not thought to have a social work background and by coincidence the Salvationists who aided them liasing between the worship activities and ‘Christian outreach’ activity such as DGH are also leaving the island.
Their departure leaves other difficulties too. For one thing, the real fate of DGH is now to be decided between the Salvation Army’s regional headquarters (who see the island as nothing but an offshore adjunct to their Cheshire and North Wales activity, and the hostel and other property as little more than potential capital to be realised if onshore business goes slack), the ‘independent’ trustees of Manx SA philanthropy (a group of non-Salvationist bigwigs whose past record – e.g. flogging a building earmarked as a youth centre to a brewery via a Guernsey trust – shows distinct ignorance of or respect for Salvationist values) and the DHA, who frankly never had a clue or gave a monkeys about the Manx dispossessed anyway.
Not, in short, good news for anyone local either with social difficulties or with good intentions for resolving them.

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