These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

CUT TO THE BONE

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Frome Town on Saturday 3rd December 2016. We lost 2-1 in front of 460.

As the manager of a small charity I spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for money to keep our services going. Services that provide an education for pupils struggling in the classroom and for people with disabilities who want to do some volunteering along with anyone else who wants to learn about gardening and be involved in their community. It's very rewarding but as the years have gone on very depressing as I stare at a computer screen trying to work out what an 'outcome' is on another poxy grant application form.

The age of austerity has a direct impact on what we do. Thanks to massive cuts to government grants, councils are stopping funding anything that isn't statutory – which means they have stopped funding nearly everything they don't have to do by law. So if you are disabled and need some help, tough. Find a non-existent job, fill in that confusing form yourself. The day centres are closed and support workers have gone - but people don't want to rot at home they want to contribute and we try and welcome everyone to come and get stuck in to some gardening, have a meal, feel part of society. The alternative, is rotting at home with deteriorating mental health.

School budgets are meant to be ring-fenced but they are not. We charge schools for our services and its not cheap and it will be increasingly difficult to fund our work even tho schools acknowledge that it really benefits individual pupils. Yes maths and English are important, but try telling that to a teenager whose just been taken into care. Schools have just become an exam factory - measured against other schools in some squered league table. No matter that at one end of town is a fee paying school that ditches pupils that aren't up to scratch and gets a 100% pass rate and lauded, whereas the primary school where I'm a governor has to deal with a myriad of problems and tries to accommodate all children believing that they all have a right to good education, even if that means they need very expensive one to one support at times. They run breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs that lose money but they feel are essential so pupils can have a chance to be coached by Albion in the community, do gymnastics, computer club – or just have the chance to talk to staff about what's bothering them. The school could charge more for these extras but then the pupils that need it the most wont be able to afford to come. They try and do as many enrichment activities as possible- you know, stuff like trips along with extra tution for reading, maths and writing. Their SATS results aren't great even if the teaching is, but that's not really the point and exam results are no way to measure what sort of education is on offer.

And so i go begging for the school from businesses and look for grants so children are able to enjoy many of the activities that wealthier ones take for granted. On top of this, Brighton Council has just announced it is stopping funding nearly all youth services and preventative work which might save pennies now, but will store up problems for the future.

I help run a community pub and if I could have bottled the community spirit last Friday at the seniors club first birthday party I could sell it for a fortune. 30 older people come every week - many picked up from the houses because of mobility problems - to the pub to enjoy lunch and bingo and escaping their four walls. We pride ourselves on being much more than just a pub and know how essential places like the Bevy are especially as older people face an epidemic of loneliness. But guess what, these places up and down the country including struggling pubs are closing.

It's no way to run a country, a country which is one of the richest in the world. There's no money for the essentials although the government can find £7.6 million to pay for repairs at one of Europe's largest stately private homes, Wentworth Woodhouse or let the fee paying school with the 100% pass-rate record keep its charitable status. Maybe they should have to crowdfund and get people to support them direct rather than from the taxpayer.

So if you've started thinking of a New Years resolution then why not volunteer or make a monthly standing order to a small charity. It will make a massive difference and maybe you will save someone from banging their head against a computer screen wondering how they are going to pay the ever rising bills.

Your support might not change the world, but it will change somebodies world.


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