Category Archives: Social care

Whats happening in SCC – March

This last month at the county council   Cabinet decide to ‘remodel’ Adult and Community services – and seem once again to be relying on that good old standby – the volunteer – to sort out the inevitable gap in provision. Truly extraordinary that a mindset  that blandly declares that  ‘ you have to pay to get the best,’  and  ‘there is no such thing as society’ is also the one that is so keen to rely on others’ free labour and ‘the community’  for the really important things in life (like caring for the elderly and running public libraries).
This month too SCC started looking at the  proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation, which is set be run by the Museum of East Anglian Life  for the compelling reason that ‘they were the only organisation to tender for it’. Thank goodness it was a museum, eh? 

Remodelling of Adult and Community Services    At their last meeting,  SCC’s Cabinet decided to remodel Adult and Community Services in Suffolk.  They propose  that ‘the community’ will increase its dealings with  ’smaller’ care-related issues, while the County picks up cases needing ‘ more permanent care solutions’.  The proposals will now go out to consultation. There is as yet  little information as to how this  shakeup will affect communities, carers and those in care.

Apparently the SCC is running a trial in Felixstowe from 1st of April. 

Points of concern:

  • In the risk implications it states that “ACS has to deliver budget savings of £24m over 2012/13 and 2013/14, of  which £3.7m has to be delivered by 13/14 by reducing demand” Is this actually achievable?  The new plan is to to be fully rolled out across the County over the course of this year – yet SCC have only just started to consult. Is this possible?
  • An impact assessment  has already been undertaken –  yet it is too early to assess the impact of the model.
  • Is this another case where the administration intends to rely on volunteers to solve all the problems of  ‘smaller’ care-related issues? SCC seems to forget that the bulk of care is already undertaken by voluntary carers – the family carers (such as myself) who underpin the whole of social care by working upaid for 168 hours a week out of love. Working 24/7 as it is,  SCC needs to recognise that will not be possible to get them to work any more.

Consultation on the proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation. Many of the responses of the consultation concerning  the new heritage organisation were from members of the public,  however, a number of organisations also took the opportunity to respond. Many of  these had a number of concerns.

In particular, English Heritage stated that the proposals are not developed enough to enable a proper response, plus they raised many questions about how it might operate. They add  ‘It is worth noting that other authorities in the East of England have considered outsourcing archaeological services into a variety of trusts, and have not done so after further due diligence’.

Suffolk Institute of Archaeology provided a four page letter summarising their main points of concern about the proposal (finishing, rather glumly, by saying that ‘SCC is almost certainly going to proceed with the creation of the Suffolk Heritage Trust, so that, whatever individual views might be, outright opposition is likely to be futile and counter-productive’).  Their main concerns were:

  • SCC has not yet explored all the available options
  • In view of the number of serious questions that had been raised, the Suffolk Institute had serious doubts that a comprehensive and convincing full business case could be put together in time for approval in Spring 2012.  The process should not be rushed or avoidable mistakes will certainly be made.
  • SCC should not proceed with the Trust proposal unless it is prepared to ensure that the new organisation has adequate funding.

Suffolk Local History Council were very concerned about the viability of these proposals – ‘Suffolk is almost alone in seeking to cope with Government cuts by divesting itself of vital services (an approach rejected by Norfolk County Council and others)”.  

It is also far from clear as to what will happen if the  heritage lottery grant which SCC seems to be relying on doesn’t materialise. The people of Suffolk have not been given a plan B.

New CareAware Service in Suffolk Suffolk County Council have recently launched CareAware, a service which looks to help those people seeking financial information about how to fund long term care.  This service is not run by Suffolk County Council but a national not-for-profit organisation which offers free and impartial information and advice about later life planning and how to pay for longer term care.

 CareAware can be contacted on 08009540091 or emailed at suffolk@careaware.co.uk

One month left to sign up for better broadband   There is only one month left for both residents and businesses to show their need for better broadband across the County before the deadline passes. The Council aims to get 10,000 residents or businesses to sign up, and you can sign up by heading to http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/broadband 

Mobility vehicles  As there is some confusion in Woodbridge and other local areas as to what rules govern mobility vehicles, where they are allowed and under what (if any restrictions) I have covered the subject very thoroughly on my blog -link here 

Just 42 I’m sure everyone in Woodbridge will be as pleased as I was to discover that our superb local  youth group was shortlisted for the High Sheriff’s Community Group of the Year award, and went on to receive a High Sheriff’s charity  grant at a ceremony in Bury St Edmunds cathedral last week. It is good so see their good work being recognised!

County Councillor surgery  My monthly surgery will take place on  Saturday 17th March, 10-12pm at Woodbridge Library

Street lighting: Just to remind everyone, the dimming/switching off of night lighting in Woodbridge will take place in the week beginning 26th March. Further finetuning can be then done on a light by light basis, so do please contact with any difficulties and report problem areas – if there are any!

County Council News: February

Full  council on February  9th was given over to  the budget  – allowing all councillors an opportunity to discuss the administration’s plans for the forthcoming year:

Although the Lib Dem opposition proposed, costed  and identified appropriate sources (including reducing the bulky Tory Cabinet by one post) to pay for  amendments which we continue to think of as a vitally important  investment in the future:

  • Re-instating Bury Road Park & Ride
  • Re-introducing the eXplore Card with a £25 admin fee;
  • Allowing those concessionary bus pass holders eligible due to disability to travel around the clock ;
  • Re-instating the bus routes cut last yearincluding evening and weekend services ;
  • Providing greater level of funding to the learning improvement service to allow for greater support to schools to increase attainment ;
  • Increasing the budget for Looked After Children to help develop alternatives to costly out of county placements;
  • NEETS Apprenticeship Scheme – allowing SCC to employ 50 further apprentices;
  • Providing £2.5m of funding to Adult Services each year over the next two years to aid the transition to more preventative care;

these timely, appropriate, and necessary amendments were  dismissed out of hand.  Yes, the need is great, yes, the funding sources are feasible and clearly identified – yet, because these sensible proposals come from the Lib Dem opposition, all  the acknowledgement Suffolk gets is  the scoffing: “Written on the back of a fag packet,” from new Leader, Mark Bee. Demonstrating once again that drearily familiar combination of  soundbite reasoning  and playground  insult-trading that the Tories at SCC continue to mistake for intelligent argument and witty repartee. 

Could someone remind them that the county councillors  of Suffolk are supposedly elected by the people in Suffolk to use the finances of Suffolk for the benefit of the people Suffolk, rather than deluding themselves  that they are in the House of Commons and playing at PMQs? 

Bus users, care users, school users, NEETS – and all those who care anything about people in these categories – please note. 

Gritting: When  the weather finally turned wintry, those additional  grit bins  funded from my this year’s locality budget  finally came into their own. On the Sunday of the first snow, three volunteers and  I spent four hours shovelling and gritting a path up California, across the Ipswich Road and down the Ipswich Road footway to the John Grose garage (my pedometer made this 3.5km of paths shovelled). By Monday morning  everywhere round these these routes were ice. The Woodbridge initiative was picked up and praised by the national charity Living Streets. . 

I have still money in my Locality Budget for places where there are as yet no bins but where residents would make use of them..

I’d be grateful if  town councillors would continue to encourage people  not to wait for ‘someone to do something’  but to volunteer to grit  those public pavements that  concern them, otherwise this duty falls on the few.  If they give their names to the Town Clerk  they won’t have to think of worrying about the urban myth that those who clear the pavements ‘could end up  being sued’.

If anyone is very anxious they can read Directgov’s formal advice :http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_191868 ,

 Warm Homes, Healthy People   SCC has received £265,000 from the Government to help those who may struggle with fuel payments in the remaining winter months. This money will be spent on:

  • Advice via Borough and district councils to anyone struggling to keep warm this winter
  • A central telephone number (Winter Wellbeing Helpline) people can call for information, advice and support.   Tel: 08456 037 686 
  • Independent energy advisors to visit households struggling to pay their energy bills to offer advice and install measures to save money and energy
  • roadshows  from Suffolk Acre to promote their good neighbour and community oil buying schemes
  • Match funding for Suffolk Foundation’s ‘Surviving Winter’ Appeal to extend the groups supported to include children and young people with learning disabilities
  • Installation of free extreme temperature sensors in vulnerable people’s homes
  • A befriending service

 No Stress Street Parties   SCC is simplifying the application process for street parties in time for the Jubilee and from 8 February, the county council will be the only council responsible for all street party applications. This will make the process smoother for events taking place on Suffolk highways. People considering organising a street party in Suffolk can now obtain a ‘Special Events Order’ through the county council’s website or even over the phone via Customer Service Direct.

To ensure minimal impact on traffic flow, the county council is urging party organisers to consider celebrating in community areas such as recreation grounds, cul-de-sacs and ‘no through roads’. Residents will incur no fee if they are able to do this.

New Rail Services    The new Greater Anglia franchise is now up and running. This is for only 18 months so consultation for the next franchise is ongoing. I attended the Suffolk Rail Policy Group last week  where there was a discussion of how the county’s further needs should be met. This was around presentations from Network Rail and National Express. It seemed to me that the needs of the London line  – which merely travels through Suffolk – were being pushed by these two organisations – to the exclusion of other issues that affect Suffolk more closely: the east-west services to Cambridge and Peterborough for example. Many Suffolk residents may consider that the shaving of minutes off the total Norwich-London travelling time is of fairly nugatory importance considering  the travel times and opportunities on other Suffolk lines. If you have any feelings on this I would suggest you put them in writing immediately to  kerry.allen@suffolk.gov.uk, as the group intend to create a consolidatory document by the end of the month.

Admissions to schools in 2013/14 – Draft policies consultation   Suffolk County Council has launched a consultation regarding their policies for admission to schools next year. It includes the admissions policy for community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided, foundation/trust schools, academies and free schools in Suffolk. Since there are proposals for at least 2 non-traditional free schools in the Woodbridge area (Steiner and Maharishi).   You can find the consultation – and the policies that the council wishes to implement  – online at this web address

Family carers need recognition as workers

Although local concerns about the closure of the Suffolk Respite charity are timely, we need to recognise that the problems family carers face are not primarily those of ‘frontline cuts’. They are the outcome of years – decades – of total neglect by  past governments.  Carers need more than charity – they need recognition as workers. I speak as a 24/7 fulltime carer  since the year 2000.

6.4million unpaid family carers in the UK save the UK economy £140bn every year. And for 24/7 care (a 168 hour week), they get a Carers Allowance of £55pw only if they are unable to work on top! Most carers struggle with dreadful daily conflicts between work and care, and a million have had to give up or reduce their hours, losing an average of £11,000 a year. There’s a wolf at every carer’s door – and over 4 in 10 say caring has pushed them into the red, with 47% being made ill by money worries. Their worries come, not only from lost earnings, but  because they face bills for special equipment, foods, medicines, transport, heating.

Its a big price to pay for love. Yet carers don’t expect to be thought of as noble: we do it in many cases because  that is the hand that we and the person we love and care for have been dealt.  There are no other options, or options that do not accord with common humanity.

We cannot always manage to be the angels we are not, so it isn’t surprising that we would rather be thought of as the workers we are. Yet New Labour, Old Labour, wet and dry Tories – no government has given a monkeys for the plight of our large but clearly politically insignificant group. For all the care past governments have had for carers ,we might as well have been a rural bus route!

On Nov 30th (Strike Day)I and the person I care for crossed a picket line for an essential (life-supporting) appointment. I asked the Unison reps why they were not striking to improve the lot of family carers.   As I pointed out to them : “Our terms and conditions include no occupational pension, no time off, no holiday, no sickness pay or cover, Health & Safety training and we have no recourse to the European Time Directive”,.

“We can’t represent you because you don’t work,” I was told. “But we care an awful lot for your plight..”

Right.

I have since been onto Unison to ask whether they would consider representing 6.4million of the hardest workers in the land to improve dire living conditions that a public-sector union should be breaking its heart over. So far, no response.

This is a slightly amended version of my letter to the EADT, 6/02/2012