You are here

JK Rowling speaks up for orphans


This is the same cause to which our founder Terry Hallman dedicated his life.

In 2011 following his death, the civic action group Maidan published part of a letter that Terry had written to USAID and the Senate Council on Foreign Relations. It said this about the plight of disabled children who had been institutionalised;

"Whether by intent or default, rural PN [psychoneurological -- ed.] facilities have become money farms and money laundries having almost nothing to do with child care. Kids are thrown in at age 4, often with barbaric and draconian misdiagnoses, and essentially left to die from neglect. They are not there for medical help. They are there to justify government budget expenditures out into the middle of nowhere in places most people haven’t reason to know about and thus no reason to ask or care about. When folks do know about it, they almost without exception do not dare to speak openly about it. These facilities have been extremely difficult to research. University professors, social protection officers, pediatricians, judges, lawyers, doctors and ordinary citizens who have some knowledge of PNs all understand full well that PNs are hands-off and people do NOT ask questions about them."

The deal Terry had put on the table to Ukraine's government in 2006 was that he would help leverage investment on condition of changes to childcare policy.  

The letter, responded to dismissively by USAID, who declared they had no budget for this group of retarded children came by way of a follow up to the strategy plan in which we'd estimated the cost of placing all of Ukraine's institutionalised children in family homes.

The paper said this about families;

"There is no substitute for a loving family environment for growing children. Existing state care institutions do not and cannot possibly provide this – despite occasional, lingering claims that state care is the best care for children. This attitude is a holdover from Soviet times when the state was idealized as the best possible caretaker for all, including children. Stark reality does not support that notion.

While this section has strong focus on financial aspects for reforming childcare in Ukraine, these are just financial numbers to demonstrate that this can be done for an overall, long-term cost reduction to state budget. That is to say, simply, this reform program is at the least financially feasible. The barrier between old and new is the cost of the transitional phase."

In 2006, this cost had been estimated at a one investment of $480 million and recurring annual support of 324 million which would be offset by reduction in costs to Ukraine's government.     

As I reported in Every Child Deserves a Loving Family, my article for MixMarket, the geatest impact of this work was the influence on Ukraine's government who would adopt several recommendations made in the paper. Not least the declaration of intent to create 400+ rehab centres for those disabled. The term 'Every Child Deserves a Loving Family' would later become a campaign banner for international Charity EveryChild.

As a social enterprise P-CED operated on a profit-for-purpose basis to cover the core operational costs of our mission in Ukraine and it was interesting to note that with the support from JK Rowling with the proceeds of her book 'Beedle the Bars' Lumos seem to have adopted a similar model.

Speaking to Axion News in 2010, Terry Hallman described his efforts to leverage social investment:

"The funds will be directed to concluding a project in the Ukraine which involves funding the training of residents to develop social businesses. Included in this work is supporting children who have disabilities, many of whom have been left to die in secretive locations. P-CED is helping to move these children to safety and give them access to modern healthcare."

As our experience would demonstrate, social investment proved inaccessible.    

Just yesterday I found something "illuminating" on the Facebook page for Lumos relating to the application of EU social investment funding

"The EU's Social Investment Package, launched by the European Commisson today contains recommendations to EU countries to use European Social Fund money to replace institutions with community based care and some key recommendations intended to prevent children being sent to institutions. An important message in upcoming negotiations:" 

In 2008 with the opportunity to contribute to the EU Citizens Consultation, I'd introduced our strategy paper in total transparency,  It said this about the need and purpose of a social investment fund which we'd weighed against the equivalent cost of occupation in Iraq for just one week.  A cost of 1.5 billion dollars:

"Project funding should be placed as a social-benefit fund under oversight of an independent board of directors, particularly including representatives from grassroots level Ukraine citizens action groups, networks, and human rights leaders.

This program provides for near-term social relief for Ukraine’s neediest citizens, most particularly children who normally have least possible influence and no public voice. Over a few years time, the net cost financially is zero. Every component is designed to become financially solvent, through mechanisms of cost-savings and shared revenue with other components. One component, Internet, provides essential communications infrastructure as well as a cash surplus to be used to offset any lingering costs of other components such as childcare, and otherwise goes to a permanent social benefit fund under oversight of the aforementioned independent, citizens-based non-government board of directors. "

"This strategy places adequate funding for social benefit under control and management independent of government and the very obvious vicissitudes and conflicts inherent therein.

This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. "

It could be said that the original concept of an EU Social Investment Package, was directed primarily toward the cause of homes for all children. 

In 2011 when the EU announced the recommendations of the Social Business Consultation, I was able to draw attention through my MEP Sir Graham Watson to the use of our work.  Work intended to benefit those in greatest need, rather than ourselves.

The response from Commissioner Michel Barnier, was one of denial.        

Similarly USAID, who had been so dismissive about Ukraine's "retarded children" would partner with the British Council to dilute and replicate our proposal for a social enterprise centre in Kharkiv. In this process, the EU Trade Secretary of the time. Lord Mandelson, would have been in an influential position.     

That men such as these in positions of power, will always put their own interest ahead of those in most need, perhaps illustrates why social investment will never get off the ground.