Thursday, March 5, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 46

Today it is dentist’s day again. The appointment only lasts half an hour, so it is not bad.

In the evening I go to the meeting with officials of the city section on plans for the neighbourhood where I live.

The Hague is the third largest city in The Netherlands, but unlike Amsterdam and Rotterdam local government has not been decentralised but “deconcentrated”. The city has been divided into eight sections and each section is further subdivided into neighbourhoods. The city sections do not have their own elected councils, nor are there any political decisions made on the city section level, but they each have a municipal office where citizens can go for certain services. The city sections are also given the responsibility to carry out a number of tasks delegated to them and one of them is the broad domain of wellbeing.

Our city section is making a plan for each of the four neighbourhoods in our city section and today they want to hear the opinion of the citizens as to what should be in the plan for the neighbourhood where I live. The citizens who have come are not very numerous, there are only about 20 people, mostly rather old. Among them three others from our informal group. There are also three or four people representing the city section and three persons representing different NGOs, responsible for organising activities.

It has been a tradition in The Netherlands that social and care activities are not carried out by public agencies but by NGOs, which get money from the public authorities to carry out the activities agreed between the NGO and the public authority. We used to call the monies received by NGOs subsidies, but nowadays we mostly speak about contracts. Formerly these NGOS were by definition not for profit, but in the care sector more and more for profit organisations have been established.

A good looking lady turns out to be the Director of the city section and she introduces the subject. She tells us briefly what is in the paper that was made available on request.

The problems of the neighbourhood are well diagnosed. I am glad to hear that it has been recognised that public transport is insufficient and that many older people are lonesome.

TR of our informal group brings forward the issue we have been discussing that older people who need help are often unable to make all the necessary arrangements themselves, because the care and social sector are so complex. At first the officials seem to think it is mostly a matter of not having sufficient information. The neighbourhood will get an “I-shop” , a mobile information unit that will be available in the library in our area on two days a week. But we insist that the problem is more than information only, it is about the whole trajectory between realising there is a need and the moment the full package of services has been organised, for instance after discharge from the hospital or when an accident or unexpected illness occur. Many people do not have friends or relatives in the neighbourhood who can do this for them. It often takes many phone calls and persistence to get what is needed and what people are entitled to.

The director is willing to listen and tries to grasp what we mean. We also discuss the lack of centrally located meeting places. An effort will be made to make some of the buildings such as schools and the library more available. The city section also has plans for some intergenerational activities with students of the secondary schools and older people.

The city section will outline what they think should happen, having heard the citizens, and the NGOs will then make their work plans, based on the paper of the city section.

In the process the citizens will be consulted again.

After the meeting I talk with the others of our informal group and while doing so I notice there is a staff member of one of the NGOs who tries to get names of people who want to be on a citizens’ panel. The others have signed up for it and encourage me to do so as well.

The meeting is planned for 23 March.

No comments:

Post a Comment