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HIV in Hertfordshire: red ribbons at dawn

Jake Basford finds out what is really going on with HIV and The Crescent from it’s leader, Iain Murtagh.

If you hadn’t spotted in the press already, there is a war going on over funding for HIV services in Hertfordshire, with one service receiving 100% of the funding from the combined service of Hertfordshire County Council and NHS Hertfordshire, leaving the other struggling for over a year to maintain the service it has promised to over 300 people living with HIV in the area. As head of the Crescent, the underdog in this battle, we were keen to ask Iain Murtagh for his side of the story.

According to Iain, The Crescent ‘received just short of £200k [per annum]’ and that they, ‘have maintained as near as possible a complete service using a mixture of paid staff and volunteers’ – which is good news. Although it isn’t as positive as it seems, as Iain explains: ‘with all staff on a three day week (some working the extra days as volunteers) it will not be long before we lose more staff – we have lost over half already.’ Which isn’t good news, and it gets worse: ‘the inevitable impact this will have on the service will bring it to the point where it will be impossible to continue.’

Hang on, let’s back up a second. In most areas of the country there are multiple HIV support groups and charities that focus on specific groups or geographic locations for their services. In London, this means that you have groups like CHIVA, who focus on children and young people, but then you have groups like South London HIV Partnership who work specifically in South London. It is the same throughout the country, and Hertfordshire is no different. As Iain explains: ‘for the last 20+ years we have provided services alongside Herts Aid covering the entire county between us.’

‘The reason for this is the transport links from east to west in Hertfordshire are very poor, meaning those in the west would have difficulty accessing a service in the east, and vice versa’, which is something we can attest to – travelling in Hertfordshire is only possible via car. We agree with Iain that, ‘there should also be an element of choice for people accessing support’, however the problem seems a little bit more in-depth. As the service provider who received the financial support, Herts Aid, that The Crescent used to get do not offer the same amount of support in the Western areas of the county. Iain explained that if The Crescent is shut, anyone who lives in the Western Hertfordshire area will only receive: ‘8 hours of open access support a week, (we currently provide 37hrs+) whereas those in the east have 35 + hours.’

So we had to ask what makes The Crescent different from other HIV support groups and services, to which we were told by Iain that: ‘The Crescent is a truly member led service’, and he went on to explain that, ‘every member has voting rights, with the ability to attend board meetings, become a board member, or employee’ – a truly for-the-members-by-the-members organisation.

Iain Murtagh, Head of The Crescent

Since their funding has been removed from the Crescent and given to Herts Aid, Iain described a fundraising campaign, Healthy Futures, hosted by Lord Rennard and Baroness Jolly, with Lord Fowler. It’s a campaign that has gained support from John Sessions amongst others, and has been subsidised by applications and a contract with Buckinghamshire County Council. Is this a viable option for the future though? ‘Unfortunately the current financial climate means that there are a great many organisations chasing an ever decreasing pot of money’, we were told, ‘eventually it will come to a point where some smaller agencies will not survive simply because there is not enough money available.’ This will obviously impact upon those in remote areas of the country as – ‘a more national approach will naturally lose local focus, and will not necessarily be able to adapt to specific requirements, such as those that exist in Hertfordshire with East to West transport, for example.’

What was the reason for this transfer of wealth? It, ‘remains somewhat of a mystery’, according to Iain, although there have been ‘many over the last 18 months’, however these have ‘not held water.’ Originally it was suggested that performance played a part, but: ‘it was revealed that HCC [Hertfordshire County Council] do not hold any performance information for either the Crescent or Herts Aid for at least the preceding four years.’ Apparently Colette Wyatt-Lowe, the Executive Panel Member for Adult Care Services went on record to say: ‘they could not afford to fund us because if they did it would mean removing funding from other services such as mental health or dementia care.’ To which Iain responded: ‘this suggests that they are using the funding meant for HIV/AIDS support elsewhere now that it is no longer ring fenced.’

The idea of ring-fenced funding has been brought into the discussion before – ‘the National Aids Trust warned this would happen if the funding was no longer ring fenced’, meaning that if the funding is no longer put to one side then it will be used elsewhere. ‘It seems it is already the case, and soon this will be a nationwide issue if the indicators in the report are anything to go by’, Iain explained.

What was discussed as being ‘a more cynical view’ by Iain proves to be something slightly more interesting, as a quick Google search proves that a councillor for HCC is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees for Herts Aid, as well as being on several health committees. As Iain explained: ‘The fact that no tender took place, nor any meaningful consultation with those affected, before the decision was taken to merely award the contract to Herts Aid has fuelled more speculation on this subject’, and that, ‘whatever the reason it certainly was not a fair or open process at all.’ Either way, there is no bitterness as, ‘the County Council chose this method of service delivery’, regardless of the situations.

About the future, Iain told us that The Crescent: ‘will continue to campaign and support our members for as long as possible. Hopefully our funding applications will come through in time.’ So we wish him and the rest of The Crescent luck.

Thanks to Iain for the pictures, and for more information on The Crescent check out their website.

Comments

comments

35 Comments

  1. Iainsean

    17 Aug 2012 at 08:31

    @UKPositiveLad Cheers Sam x

  2. CurvyCurls

    17 Aug 2012 at 08:59

    Thanks for such a well written article.

  3. CurvyCurls

    17 Aug 2012 at 09:00

    Thanks for such a well written article.

  4. CurvyCurls

    17 Aug 2012 at 09:01

    @Iainsean great article Bro…. :-)

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 09:07

      @CurvyCurls TY x

  5. Iainsean

    17 Aug 2012 at 09:15

    @PME200 TY x hope all is well

  6. GMlovelie67xxx

    17 Aug 2012 at 09:19

    @Iainsean thank you Ian its nice to see your picture in this artice I have tweeted it xxx

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 09:43

      @GMlovelie67xxx TY xx

      • GMlovelie67xxx

        17 Aug 2012 at 11:00

        @Iainsean :)) xxx

  7. edphoto1

    17 Aug 2012 at 09:22

    @Iainsean @StAlbansGossip great! raise more awareness

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 09:43

      @edphoto1 @stalbansgossip cheers x

  8. Pkakooza

    17 Aug 2012 at 12:38

    @Iainsean Ofcourse Hun! xx

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 12:51

      @Pkakooza TY sweetie xx

    • Iainsean

      23 Aug 2012 at 13:38

      @Pkakooza plsRT John Sessions talks to his local news paper about his work to stop closure of @CrescentSupport http://t.co/nuphkWS6 #HIV

  9. 5KRedRun

    17 Aug 2012 at 12:43

    @CrescentSupport No problem! #FF for the weekend :-)

  10. VOICESHIVAIDS

    17 Aug 2012 at 12:58

    @Iainsean Done! Have a great day and enjoy the weekend, too! #HIV #AIDS #documentary #FF

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 13:03

      @VOICESHIVAIDS TY and u too xx

  11. joshbarden1

    17 Aug 2012 at 15:55

    @stephenfry you in hertfordshire today:)?

  12. pigletruth

    17 Aug 2012 at 15:57

    @stephenfry broken link Stephen

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 18:48

      @pigletruth try this one ?pls rt HIV in Hertfordshire: red ribbons at dawn http://t.co/203mek71

  13. drewsmilitia

    17 Aug 2012 at 15:58

    @stephenfry Chalk up another site murdered

  14. DePerzik

    17 Aug 2012 at 16:02

    @stephenfry I’m from Herts and intrigued but that link won’t work :(

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 18:48

      @DePerzik @stephenfry works for me ? Try this HIV in Hertfordshire: red ribbons at dawn http://t.co/203mek71

  15. matthewhorwood

    17 Aug 2012 at 16:22

    @Iainsean it wouldn’t let me RT this earlier but I’ve RT’d the @SoSoGay story on it for you Iain!

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 16:40

      @matthewhorwood @sosogay bless u Matt xx much appreciated hope all is

    • Iainsean

      17 Aug 2012 at 16:41

      @matthewhorwood @sosogay …well with u x

  16. mariamattjacobs

    17 Aug 2012 at 16:32

    @stephenfry why?

  17. Hipkin91

    17 Aug 2012 at 18:14

    @stephenfry

  18. uzzy83

    17 Aug 2012 at 19:09

    @stephenfry what happened?

  19. Iainsean

    19 Aug 2012 at 06:07

    @staybloomin TY x

  20. CrescentSupport

    19 Aug 2012 at 09:44

    @Iainsean @attitudemag TY for the RT John ! Much appreciated x

  21. HIVadvocates

    20 Aug 2012 at 08:05

    @iainsean thanks for the RT

    • Iainsean

      20 Aug 2012 at 08:12

      @HIVadvocates anytime :-)

  22. GM19551

    21 Aug 2012 at 07:08

    @stephenfry

  23. Iainsean

    23 Aug 2012 at 13:33

    @staybloomin plsRT John Sessions talks to his local news paper about his work to stop closure of @CrescentSupport http://t.co/nuphkWS6 #HIV

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