These Cuts Won’t Heal: Community Healthcare Scrapped in North Edinburgh

In December a public NHS/Edinburgh Council body called the Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board (EIJB) met to allocate funding for Health &Social Care projects within Edinburgh over the next three years.Their budget for this was a mere £14.1 million pounds, down from £35million for the previous three year period. A combination of a change in policy about how funding for health & social care is allocated in Edinburgh alongside budget cuts from Westminster & Holyrood meant that 35 projects didn’t receive any funding at all and many others had cuts to their services.

In the North West of Edinburgh where I live and work, five projects have been hugely impacted by these cuts: the Pilton Community HealthProject, North West Carers Centre, Drylaw Neighbourhood Centre,Pilton Equalities Project, & the North Edinburgh Time Bank.(https://nen.press/2018/12/14/health-and-social-care-grants-where-the-axe-will-fall/#more-54576)The Pilton Community Health Project opened in 1984 and is the oldest community health project in Scotland providing essential support to some of the poorest in Scotland, and has just lost all of its core funding overnight without an appeal process. Unless something can be secured in the next few months, it will have to close its doors in March 2019. (As a side note, there was no representation from the North of Edinburgh on the board who made these decisions.)

This is painful, devastating news for local people, volunteers and all the workers who will lose their jobs in the area. This news also follows on from previous cuts which meant we lost the bulk of Pilton Youth &Children’s Centre’s services (http://pycp.co.uk/),and community centres like Muirhouse Millenium Centre have faced cuts year on year for a while now. That is almost all of the community services in the whole of the Forth neighbourhood, and more widely projects across the whole city have been affected.

There is no back up. These projects were the safety net and the lifeline for local people who will now have nowhere to go. At the same time Universal Credit & The Hostile Environment have arrived and those crushed by this overwhelmingly callous christmas combination of state policies will have no support in the coming days. As usual people of colour, working class people, disabled people, single parents and women will be the most affected.

Community health projects are the ones working tirelessly to take the burden off the state’s services, even though so often its the burden of the state itself which causes people to crumble. These projects all fought & struggled to even come into existence in the first place, to be seen to have value at all. They were forced to emerge from the cracks where the state failed and continues to fail, to pickup the pieces of government policy that systemically embeds inequality and hierarchy into the fabric of our society. A culture that tells us that no matter what is happening in our lives, how traumatised we are, how sick we are, how disabled we are, how marginalised we are, that our worth is only measured by our productivity and our consumption.

At the same time as these decisions were made, money in Edinburgh continues to be funnelled into glitzy opportunities for spending money for those who can afford it. Some are calling this the ‘Disneyfication of Edinburgh’ – check out this excellent article by Mike Small here:(https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/12/18/the-disneyfication-of-edinburgh/)We have luxury tourist attractions, hotels, ubiquitous student  accommodation, trams that only take city visitors to and from the airport, a £6million one-night-only Hogmanay Street party, and local run businesses which are pulled down to be replaced by corporate coffee chains and more of the same. Our central library is going to be literally overshadowed by a new hotel that no one needs or wants.In the same breath as these cuts a different department smilingly announced that 4,000 new homes will be built in Granton alongside the luxury marina and hotels around the corner from where Pilton Community Health Project now stands. This is a council that is severely misunderstanding its purpose and priorities.

It makes me ask myself once again what could this society and city look like if it genuinely desired to create healthy, strong &resilient communities?

If we all could access fresh, healthy food to eat and had the skills and enough energy and fuel to prepare it. If we had community-run spaces where we could share food with friends and neighbours and feel part of something bigger than ourselves. If we had greenspaces to run and play and be still in, (which hadn’t had all the trees cut down). If our pain could be witnessed and heard by others who cared about us,and we knew where to turn to when times got hard. If when we needed a break there was genuine respite available. If those who chose to spend time looking after and supporting others in their family,community or work were valued in the same way as financial services or celebrity culture. To make this possible far more than 14 or even £35 million is needed to fund our much needed community health &social care services. If we have a holistic view of health and understand it to be related to social issues, then this is all of our problem.

I’d like to believe all this is still possible, but not while these decisions go unchallenged.

A community campaign has begun to reverse these cuts and to review this new process of allocating core funding to services.http://nen.press/2018/12/18/community-organisations-to-fight-funding-cuts/If you’d like to be involved, you can contact Julie Smith at Community Action North on [email protected]

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