Archive for February, 2014

Public health budgets, how strong is the ring fence?

February 19, 2014

It was with intrigue but of little surprise that I read about the Sheffield Council’s proposal to save some of the libraries planned for closure in the city by using public health funds

Repatriating public health back into local authorities was a welcome move, but one not without risks.  Public health is the only area of local government which has been shielded from the axes of above whilst colleagues around them are fighting for money here there and everywhere. It is inevitable that bringing public health back into local authorities carries with it the real risk that sooner or later those colleagues around them will start looking to this ‘sacred’ pot of money to survive. Case in point, Sheffield.

I thought I’d get my legislative head on and scurry around the reams of legislation to find out what the gods in Westminster tells us about ring fenced public health budgets, in particular what the terms and conditions are of the public health budgets. The guidelines essentially say the money must be used for public health purposes as mandated by their public health function (outlined in the National Health Service Act 2006 see section 73B (2). However the grant conditions state that funds can be spent on other functions of the local authority only if ‘the authority is of the opinion that those functions have a significant effect on public health’. The wording certainly leaves room for interpretation and it is under this remit that Sheffield is arguing for public health money as libraries improve wellbeing. And can you blame them? Desperate time calls for desperate measures

Indeed a recent report by the NLGN cited the envy felt by others in the local authority towards public health. When they’re being stripped of money it must be difficult to swallow seeing your colleagues have a protected and increased budget. It seems that this envy has the propensity to turn into action.

Surely then why aren’t more local authorities following suit? Well I can find little evidence of it having happened elsewhere, but it might have been the case of who was going to take the first jump? If so, have Sheffield now set a precedent? And will the defences of public health remain strong against the attack?

Rosanna Post is a Project Officer at The Campaign Company. She specialises in Behaviour Change. To find out more about The Campaign Company click here.

School letters (surely there is a better way of communicating?)

February 12, 2014

I don’t about you, but I get a lot of letters from school. 

They are always on different coloured paper, and they usually have at least one, if not two, tear off strips.  I now file them under various headings.

First, there are the instruction letters: where the children must be and by when, who with, why and what they should have with them.  The need for lunches (in disposable packaging only) and waterproofs (with hoods please, but no hoodies); with spending money (more than a pound, but not over £3) and permissions slips at hand.

Then there are the rule letters. No jewellery; no skateboards; no mobiles or other electronic devices.  And no cars anywhere near school.  Oh, and don’t even think about taking your children out of school in term time – the consequences are too severe for me to even mention on an open webpage.

And the event letters: swimming festival tomorrow (did we not mention?), and valentine’s day special craft project (really, is it that time of year already?  But there are no Easter eggs in the shops yet).  So I frantically search round the house for some appropriate red card and ribbon to donate cursing myself for obviously missing a memo somewhere

Then there is the raft of money letters.  Money for trips.  Money for swimming. Money for residentials.  Money for music lessons.  Money for the PTA.  

Now I am pretty lucky, my girls’ teachers have all been extremely good at keeping us up to date and the school tries hard to keep parents informed without over burdening us. So surely as a communications professional (stop giggling at the back) I should welcome this barrage of information?

Well, yes, the motivation is clearly right. But this is the 21st century.  Aren’t there better ways of communicating?  Headteachers’ blogs? Email cascades?  Twitter feeds for each year group?  Class specific noticeboards?  On line Q&A sessions?  Skype parents evenings?  Facebook pages with events functionality?  Tying notes to the legs of pigeons?  OK, we may need our children to help us actually do some of these things, but they taught me how to use my smartphone…

Drowning in paper, colour coordinated or not, is so last year.   

But it is better than being kept in the dark I guess. I just need a decent PA to help me do the filing and perhaps a new hobby: origami or papier mache anyone?

Mark Wall is an Associate of The Campaign Company. You can read more about our communications strategies here.