Monday, 1 December 2008

Early sign of anticipated crisis

Parallel but converging?

Norman Perrin’s blog this morning alerts us to an early public report of the credit crunch hitting a quality, non-state alternative service in the United Kingdom. There may have already been others, in the UK or elsewhere, but if so these have not been spotted, or not shared. Read the article, by Margarette Driscoll, for yourself:

A familiar-enough story. Articulate, humane, determined parents, the de Savarys, are horrified at the quality of state services provided for their disabled child. So they set up their own, a small domestic-living unit for severely disabled young people who grow up to fall off the end of the education system and find… nothing.

In a sector of desperate need, this develops into a small system of five such homes: Home from Home Care.

What they do does not come cheap. Quality doesn’t, in any area of life.

This is not Conductive Education but no matter. The parallel (the converging parallel?) is at the social, not the pedagogical level. The driving force of determined parents, the benefits (first for their own child and then for others), and the effects upon their own lives, are the same stuff as has been the backbone of the international spread of Conductive Education over the last twenty years.

Hard times

The service that they provide stands at a particularly vulnerable end of the market, disabled adults in full-time care, perhaps an inevitable sector for the first shots of public and commercial retrenchment to be fired.

Local authorities, many of which have been hit by the Icelandic banking collapse, have begun to drag their heels over placements. At least four have been told to look again 'in county' [i.e. something local, run by the public care system] for somewhere to place vulnerable youngsters… although nothing suitable was found when social workers first considered their placements.

… the delay has led the company’s bank, HBOS, to withdraw a previously agreed borrowing facility, based on occupancy rates, costing the company £150,000. The bank has also asked for a business review that will cost the business £20,000...

In order to ensure the cash flow while the bank makes its investigations, they have made six administrative staff redundant and taken themselves off the payroll.

The de Savegnys seem relatively advantaged people, advantaged that is by the standards of many of those who run CE centres, few of which can say that they have investors standing by to help possible future expansion of their system by opening new homes. Paul de Savigny does, however, say:

‘You do wonder how long it’s all going to go on for. It matters very much to us because this isn’t an ordinary business. You can’t mothball part of it till the good times come again, and cutting costs - and therefore care standards - would undermine everything we stand for.’

Let us hope that it works out for them.

Meanwhile, in Conductive Education…

Norman Perrin in his blog, looking forward to CE's post-apocalyptic future, quite rightly extolls the virtues of the way in which Tsad Kadima in Israel is developing such a service within the Conductive Education model. But it may need a new business model (new on the whole to Conductive Education, that is) to give such a service to get of the ground, in the UK and many other countries.

Maybe the way in which the de Sevignys have operated points to one way: as a business. But maybe the practices, locations. alliances etc of Conductive Education will have to make a considerable step forward, out of the old ways, before this can be even considered.

Notes and references

Home from Home Care

Driscoll , M. (2006) The credit crunch hurts even the disabled, Sunday Times, 30 November

Perrin, N. (2008) The credit crunch hurts even the disabled, PACES CEO, I December

Sutton A. (2008) Please, not just retrenchment: surviving the credit crunch in a socially responsible way, Conductive World, 27 November

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