John Matthews: Everyone has a role in deprivation
IN MY years as a parish minister in a disadvantaged area serving on public bodies tasked to address poverty, addiction and offending and much else, there was never a shortage of good practice.
It is not that we don’t know what to do to address many of these seemingly intractable problems; what is lacking is connectedness between service providers and a willingness to “bolt-on” that good practice to the next agency required for an individual’s continued recovery.
So-called revolving doors lie in the gap between one agency’s good practice and the next in line. When a prisoner, (addict, homeless person – often the same individual) is released, who is there to “bolt-on” to and carry them to the next stage of their recovery?
In the past few years, partnerships have formed but they are either small and underfunded or large-scale and unwieldy, stifling spontaneity and creativity – and risk taking. There can be no creativity without risk; and no risk without the possibility of failure. So risk is written out of the recovery programme.
But by far the greatest inhibitor is that too often the solutions for recovery are suggested by well-meaning middle-class individuals (like me!) who think they know what should be good for the poor, addicted, offender. What is needed is to provide a circle of professional help around those seeking to change their behaviour with that person at the centre. But this will involve a shift away from the professional to the offender. No government could afford this without engaging with the recovering person, their family, friends and communities. And there is risk aplenty.
The second inhibitor is the need to engage the whole population. Offending, addiction, homelessness, worklessness, and much else, do not happen in a vacuum; they begin, grow and flourish in a culture. An iceberg exists because the temperature of the water is too cold. How do we raise the temperature of the water? That is, change the culture in Scotland?
This will only happen when everyone becomes concerned enough to own the problem and become a movement for change.
• John Matthews is chair of the Glasgow Simon Community.
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