In case of emergency… don’t call Eric
You just can’t escape the snow; even when it’s not snowing! Here follows our second snow piece in two days; this time from one of our readers who seems a little annoyed by Eric Pickles and the good people at the DCLG.
I spoke to one of my friends yesterday, who asked me to guess how many hours it took for her to get to do her regular journey to work last week… ‘6 she replied, and then 5 hours to get back’, and that included her getting out to help dig a truck that had got stuck in the snow and was blocking traffic.
What I discovered later on, was that my friend has inadvertently acted in accordance with new guidance, helpfully published last week by Eric Pickles and our good friends at the Department for Communities and Local Government… Yes that’s the ‘Guidance on community action during severe weather… The Big Society in Action.’
This provides a helpful guide for those needing additional information about what to do in cases of emergency when dealing with severe weather; except the guidance forgets to include the seemingly helpful recommendation, as proven by my friend, to carry a shovel in the car.
The (not so) subtle message for a society needing to wean itself off local governments’ helping hand seems to be simple, ‘don’t call us – we’re calling you’.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the Big Society ideals that we all now have to pitch in a bit more. And yes, that means you and I need to up our weekly volunteering hours. I’m sure the boss wont mind when you explain the reason you wont be staying late to finish that last minute project.
(As a side note: I wonder just how well it’ll go down with management when people start calling in ‘volunteering’ days, as suggested for those stuck at home in the snow.)
My problem with this sort of guidance is not why have it, but why is this the job of the CLG. Thanks, but actually the CLG publication web page is not the place I would look for the latest info on how to deal with frostbite.
It seems that now is a good a time as any to start to talk about who should be doing what.
The issue of ‘coordination’ seems to be the elephant in the room in all the Big Society chatter. One thing that drives me batty working in local government is the amazing duplication of guidance everywhere. Its seems no-one is quite sure who is doing what, so everyone does everything (and we are stuck reading 100’s of guidance documents, kind of all saying a similar thing, but nothing which succinctly gives you everything you need to know).
I would understand if the CLG wrote a guidance template and told local authorities to update it with the relevant local service information and stick it on their websites. That would make sense – and, no doubt, be very helpful. Or they could write to volunteer agencies, asking them to promote key safety information and how and when people should contact them.
If the government is going to provide helpful information, surely in the age of austerity, it should do it once and do it well. Not investing in yet another piece of guidance few will know exists, let alone read.
Having said that, thankfully we have now all been reminded…. You do not need a Criminal Records Bureau check to call round and check on elderly friends and neighbours. So there you have it, now there really are no more excuses for me not to go and introduce myself to the neighbours.