At budget time last month TSBC, like many others, had our heads down in spreadsheets, setting our budgets and making plans for the forthcoming year. As soon as the budget was revealed, everyone began looking at how it would affect them in 2014 and beyond – a favourite topic for columnists. Others used the pre-budget frenzy to talk about what they want to see from George Osborne. Indeed there is one interesting idea around the government’s Early Intervention Foundation and whether it could be extended from offering help to at-risk pre-schoolers to a wider application – in public health, for example.
For the local authorities we work with, and would like to work with, the budget was already in. The government announced its provisional local government finance settlement back in December 2013 and council sessions up and down the country will have agreed any changes to council tax rates in the past few months. So no crystal balls were required – we already knew that most local authorities were going to be facing tighter budgets and another very difficult financial year in 2014-15. Speakers at the Annual Public Health Conference in February confirmed what many of us already suspected, that drugs spending is the second largest item in public health budgets. And as we know, larger budgets often come under greater pressure when belts are being tightened.
Our overriding concern is how, in such financially constrained times, work will continue to be funded to help the participants we see on our programmes. The answer’s not new, but we passionately believe that the answer is to work in partnership – indeed we cheekily asked people what would be the best partnership on Valentine’s Day.
For us, it’s all about bringing together and working with local public health teams and police and crime commissioners – because the outcomes we can achieve in our employment and self-employment programmes, such as increased abstinence and a reduction in offending or reoffending, relate directly to both the public health and criminal justice agendas. And of course when the successful entrepreneurs from our programme get to the stage of expanding and hiring more staff, we encourage them to give a helping hand to the next generation of service users, creating a truly virtuous circle. With both partners contributing to these programmes, budgets can go a lot further and deliver so much more.
I’m extremely glad that we’ve just got agreement to go ahead with one such project in Northamptonshire, funded by the county council and the PCC. We’ll be delivering our Progress to Success programme helping participants into education, training and, particularly, employment; as well as our flagship E=MC2 course to inspire service users to turn their ideas into a real business of their own. Our worker will be based at The Bridge, a fantastic recovery centre in the heart of Northampton that’s doing amazing things helping recovering substance misusers reintegrate back into society.
We’ll let you know how we get on.
To enquire more about our work please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @amarlodhia or @tsbclondon – don’t forget to use #DDNews when tweeting!
Amar Lodhia is chief executive of The Small Business Consultancy CIC (TSBC), thesmallbusinessconsultancy.co.uk