Thursday 20 May 2010

Belle Vue Rendezvous

A “nice view” indeed – I find the VW microbus elegantly parked outside the ornate pavilion in Newport’s Belle Vue Park having chugged not very environmentally from last week’s Barry event. I arrive among a good crowd enjoying the sultry air and sunshine including John Griffiths AM, Counsel General and Cabinet Member in Wales’ coalition government and the supportive local Assembly Member for Hafal’s Newport base. We discuss the new Prime Minister’s offer when he came to Cardiff on Monday to let WAG delay cutting the Welsh share of that contentious £6 billion: John points out it would mean more cuts next year so not an easy option. In any case he acknowledges it is a relatively small part of a much greater deficit which must be dealt with by cuts or taxes. The key variables in how managing the deficit will affect services in Wales seem to be: -

• Does WAG delay cutting its share of the £6 billion (see above)?
• What proportion of the deficit is dealt with by taxation? A UK matter and we should learn more from George Osborne soon: that will determine the cut in what WAG is allocated.
• Is the Barnett formula going to be updated? Also in the gift of the UK government. If it is then Wales could get a better deal (Scotland less). Don’t hold your breath!
• Whatever funding does come to Wales will WAG protect NHS funding or indeed increase it? But that also leaves local government which will surely be squeezed.
• Will the Welsh NHS Local Health Boards or indeed the Councils honour the declared WAG priority for mental health when the chips are down?

Details of the Newport event will shortly be posted here and you can read about the whole campaign here.

For their event Hafal Newport has laid on a rival fixture to the Ryder Cup in the form of a complex golf game illustrating progress in mental health recovery: never much good at games I find the rules a bit baffling but everybody enjoys some gentle and not so gentle putting. Trustee Jazz has loyally made his way from Aberdare by public transport and reminisces about the old National Schizophrenia Fellowship in Wales (Hafal before independence and reformation) - he is rightly proud of being there at the start and helping manage development of the organisation. A dispiriting conversation with a longstanding client of our local service who has hit a major crisis brought on and then made worse by a substandard response from a key national agency - he praises our staff for doing their best to help: I only wish it was in our power to solve the problem. Nice salmon, tuna, and ham sandwiches, a cup of tea and a chat to Pam Johnson and other staff and volunteers before heading back to the less attractive view of my intray.