Iain MacRitchie on Cuts in a Crisis

Impact Report

The hopes and confidence of young people are being devastated amid an escalating teenage mental health crisis and unprecedented school absence rates. MCR Pathways is a national, award-winning mentoring programme aimed at helping those who have been in care to achieve their potential. It has been independently proven to make a transformational difference to their lives thanks to improved attainment, positive post-school destinations and by giving them greater confidence and self-esteem. 

Yet Glasgow city council is planning to cut critical MCR school-based staff and jeopardise something that is highly effective at a time when it is increasingly needed. If the cuts go through it will have a terrible impact on the educational outcomes, job choices and life chances of 2,000 of the city’s most disadvantaged young people. Almost 800 of them effectively have Glasgow city council as their parent. This move will accelerate the mental health crisis and, at the same time, strain and ultimately drain other resources. And that’s not just for a budget period, it is for a lifetime. How did it come to this? 

It seems we have sleepwalked to a point of no return. Cuts have been made by stealth and — shockingly for our democracy — without detail or discussion. If there is no way through the public sector funding crisis then we need a very honest and open debate. Hoping for political honesty and transparency may be too idealistic but we need at least to have transparent processes. The alternative is we continue to react to the loudest voter voices and support universal services that are no longer affordable. 

Of course, there is an argument for free university places or free prescriptions for all, but not at the expense of those with no voice and who need our help the most. They cannot go unheard and pay the price when the numbers don’t add up. Charities step in to fill the gap but also suffer arbitrary cuts and, living hand to mouth on funding, are vulnerable. Just as the recent think tank report issued on the health of Scottish charities noted, they are drowning not waving. 

I believe there is enough funding in the system. Take the data from the Independent Care Review, which is also known as The Promise. We spend £942 million a year on the care system and £875 million dealing with its failings. At some point broken systems need to be fixed with investment, care and respect. I understand the public sector is under financial pressure. However, we need those who need our help the most to be supported by those who know them best. Following that principle might help the implementation of the much-lauded but completely ignored Christie Commission on the future delivery of public services.

In the meantime I appeal to the council to listen to the young people. Their voice needs to be heard. MCR mentoring relationships are making a life-changing difference. I know at first hand. A young person I mentored went from living in a homeless unit while in school to now being a qualified doctor. Cuts are human; not just about numbers. 

Iain MacRitchie is the founder of MCR Pathways

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