The Lifeline Collapse: was it really such a “shock”?

LifebeltPersonally speaking, I would have to say that I’m actually more surprised than shocked per se

Surprised at the apparent velocity surrounding the recent turn of events, assuming it was actually sudden (as suggested)? Surprised at the way in which so many members of staff appeared to have been kept in the dark by their managers, even lied to on some points and for some time (allegedly)? Surprised that any organisation could actually have been quiet so deceitful, as this one appears to have been with some of their partners (allegedly)?

Shock failure of charity serving 80,000 people a year and employing 1,300 comes after allegations over financial controls… (The Guardian)

The Ex-UKDPC chief executive Roger Howard, resigned from Lifeline’s board in November 2016 after raising concerns about management and governance issues…

“It’s really critically important to ensure that organisations delivering large volumes of public services have the right assurances in place.” (Roger Howard)

As part of my daily work I communicate with many professionals and volunteers involved in addictions services delivery, both managers and those working at the ‘sharp-end’ of addictions recovery. Most of these people, whose daily work involves supporting vulnerable people in need of help, often see ‘service’ through a distinctly different pair of glasses to the ones used by many of their managers, people who are supposedly viewing the same process? During those communications I’ve also received widely diverse opinions and comment on this financial debacle. I would suggest that this is not only evidence of differing personal opinion but also, indicative of the personality and individual skill sets possessed by some of the respondents.

The pressure to deliver more services against a background of financial uncertainty made it ‘vitally important that all organisations in this sector are impeccably well-run and well governed’ – Yasmin Batliwala (WDP)

All business requires good management however; when that organisation is contracted to provide public services paid for with public money then by necessity, that particular business requires even more transparent robust governance. Even more so than some private entities would naturally aspire to.

…you have to ask the question of why is it that CGL, Turning Point, Addaction, Phoenix and any of the other organisations are coping with the sort of managerial and governance demands being placed upon them. I think that’s where there was a pretty clear failing on the part of Lifeline. (Robert Howard)

Many working in addictions services blame difficulties on the commissioning of public services; a subject I touched on in one of my recent blog posts (see here). That often bureaucratically laden system and process isn’t without it’s faults. Some have even suggested that commissioning could be ‘faulty by design’ (see here) however; it’s also far too easy for some to use that process as a smokescreen to disguise their own individual and/or organisational inadequacies.

It may eventually transpire that the required levels of professionalism and governance within Lifeline are found to have been lacking? Whatever the result of any enquiry, the good people at the bottom of the managerial pile will continue to deliver the good stuff they do on a daily basis, irrespective of who their ‘boss’ might be. It’s just such a pity that it came to this. Especially when so many at the ‘sharp-end’ are already having to deliver services stifled by a blanket of personal and organisational politics and aspirations.

Should any of the organisational management within Lifeline end up having sleepless nights over the coming months, I suspect they are likely to have been well deserved.

So, to answer the original question, was it a ‘shock’? I would have to say – “It obviously depends upon who you ask” – clearly some people have been concerned about the general modus operandi of Lifeline for some time… A sad end to a once respected and worthwhile organisation!

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