In the midst of the festive season, as we all splash our hard-earned cash on our nearest and dearest, it’s interesting to see what our local councils are choosing to do with our money…
Staffordshire County Council
Family Group Conference Convener (£27,594 - £30,598 Pro rata, per annum (subject to job evaluation)
The Family Group Conference Service is a county wide service and is looking to recruit casual conveners to organise and facilitate family group conferences. A Family Group Conference is a family-led, decision-making meeting, which takes place when families need to take decisions and make plans to address concerns about the safety, well-being or behaviour of their child/ren.
The role of the convener is to help the family, and those who work with the family, to engage in the process and to help the family arrange the meeting. Family Group Conference Conveners need to have a proven ability to relate to people in a non- judgmental way. Good communication skills are essential.
We are looking for applicants who are committed to involving families in decision making, listening to children and young people's wishes and feelings.
Perhaps one we could all do with at Christmas time, someone to mediate between various family members and help us come to decisions, like what to watch on television perhaps?
In all seriousness, we are all aware that some families need real help, and this is why we have an army of social workers employed by local councils to deal with vulnerable family members in the way they judge best, restoring some harmony to ‘challenging’ households. We also have a police force for when communication completely breaks down.
What we have here seems to be another animal entirely, dedicated solely to the art of conversation and ‘decision making’ between family members. The job description is typically vague and one-dimensional psycho-babble, and yet the accompanying salary is well above the national average.
And is a family discussion really a ‘conference’ requiring a ‘convener’? It seems that Staffordshire County Council is taking their intervention to needless lengths, and unfortunately we are called to pay for the council’s insistence upon being involved in every angle of family life, including actively discouraging families from working through problems between themselves.
Warwickshire County Council
Project Leader – New Neighbours: Crossing the Divide (£18,907 - 20,736 pro rata
22.5 hours per week, fixed term till December 09)
We are looking for an enthusiastic project leader to enable us to develop the Bedworth Heath and Keresley reminiscence project: New Neighbours: Crossing the Divide.
The project leader will be working closely with Nuneaton and Bedworth Neighbourhood Watch Association and other partner agencies. You will take the lead in organising groups and individual young people to engage in oral history / reminiscence work in their community.
The job description goes on to elaborate; describing how this ‘Project Leader’ will facilitate conversations between the old and the young, something that clearly can’t be done without state intervention (do none of these children have grandparents?).
The fact is that both local history and folklore are passed on, and always have been, without the need of any council coordinated projects. For hundreds of years enthusiasts, historians and the older generation (particularly after a few Christmas Day sherries…) have successfully retold and catalogued the important events in each city, each town, each street, each household of the United Kingdom. What is more, much of this information is freely available in local libraries and bookshops to those who have an interest. If young people want primary sources, then they are more than able to engage with older people without state-paid officials mediating the process.
Terms like ‘crossing the divide” only serve to highlight the difference between the generations, and projects like this seem to contradict their own purpose by treating the old and the young as though they were different species or tribes at war who need to be tentatively introduced to one another.
Of course young people should learn about their responsibilities towards their community, but half-baked projects fleetingly exposing them to local ‘oral history’ and the reminiscing of local elders seem a lot less worthy of taxpayers’ money than our faltering education system.
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
Sub Regional Dance Development Officer (£25,320 – 31,606)
Dancescape is the dance development project for the sub region of Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire.
The Sub Regional Dance Development Officer works with partners, dance practitioners and organisations to strategically promote and develop all forms of dance practice across the sub region, acting as a focal point for dance development and information and managing a range of projects and programmed events.
£30K well spent? We’ve had officers paid to help families talk to each other, officers paid to make sure that the old and the young communicate, and now we have an officer paid to make sure we’re all dancing (or watching it at the very least). Although there doesn’t seem to be much to dance about with Solihull pleading poverty once again over government funding, and warnings in the local press about severe council tax hikes next spring.
Solihull Council may very well justify this post by having us believe that dance is something that would be wiped of the face of the planet were it not for the state funding/meddling that keeps this delicate and dying art form alive. Unfortunately Solihull Council would be flying in the face of thousands of years of evidence that proves that, much like most forms of artistry, people like to dance, and it is a primal enough urge to ensure that they always will – even without Solihull Council’s Sub Regional Dance Development Officer at the helm. If there is enough interest in dance around the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire area then dance schools and dance performances will soldier on independently, just like they always have.
The great thing about ‘dance development’ is that it needn't cost the taxpayer a penny. Those who like to dance often like to teach it too (and usually for only a nominal fee), and that is why every week night after school/work and on every Saturday afternoon community centres, church halls and school gymnasiums are full of people enjoying learning to dance. At the opposite end of the scale, many quality professional companies run like a business, keeping themselves afloat by the patronage of their loyal audiences and topping up their coffers by appealing to donors.
Regardless of the future of dance development in Solihull, it is absolutely plain that the money spent on this post would be better spent on frontline services and necessities, rather than flights of fancy that stop well short of benefiting the community at large.