Category Archives: Volunteers

Winter Pavement Gritting in Woodbridge – Volunteers needed!

It is now five years since the Woodbridge Volunteer Winter Pavement Gritting Scheme was first set up at my instigation in the winter of 2010  with a  locality grant  for grit bins. (Over the past 5 years I have  made grants of over £5000 to keep this scheme going).

Can I please reiterate what I’ve said in the past,  – slippery footways are an issue not for some imaginary ‘them’ but for all of us.  Lets face it, we can easily grit a local pavement or two when we see the need. When it is icy, the people who run the gritting lorries are out day and night trying to keep as much of the thousands of miles of Suffolk roads passable as possible.

However, on that basis for the last 5 years  I have been the only councillor in Woodbridge to be out on every icy day as a gritting volunteer. This is no light thing. Every icy day over the last five years I have shovelled and gritted the whole of California, and the Ipswich road path down to John Grose – sometimes down to the Notcutts roundabout – well over a mile of ice and grit every time.

Astonishingly  I have often been approached by residents – often much younger –  unwilling to help grit communal paths, but wanting to  use the grit for their own driveways!

I’m tough but I am middle-aged and my health is not what it was. Other long-term  volunteers are in the same boat.If the scheme is to continue we need more volunteers. There are many able bodied people in Woodbridge who should be able – and probably will be willing – to help.

Woodbridge is a town of vulnerable pedestrians, narrow paths and steep hills. Before I instituted the gritbin scheme, many people were housebound every time the weather was icy.  We must not return to this.

So what are we to do? I would suggest Woodbridge Town Council puts a well-worded notice on each bin asking for local volunteers.

The Highways department tells me today that ice is is not expected ‘before the end of October’. Not so cheering, considering it is the 27th today!

What’s been happening in Suffolk, October 2013

This month’s report has a lot to do with a number of different forms of transport: rail, road, bus AND cycle – and also has a sentence in Anglo-Saxon embedded in it:

Greater Anglia Cycle ‘consultation’  Greater Anglia’s draft cycle strategy consultation finished on 1 November. It worried a number of people – from intercity commuters, to public health officers, to those involved in tourism to your average working godger.  And me (needless to say).

Details were nebulous but  it seemed  (when you cut through seemingly deliberately unspecific verbiage) that the rail company was proposing to remove cycles from an unspecified number of their trains – up to and including all of them – preferring people to keep bicycles at each end of their daily journey or to use Greater Anglia’s own version of Boris bikes at an extra cost of £3.80 a day.

The impact of this would be felt by all cycle rail users, but most particularly those with fewer choices: those using the trains from stops in in rural areas, second-class passengers, those with complex journeys, and of course the young and less affluent.

Suffolk travellers would be particularly at risk because it seems as if decisions are being proposed on the basis of the status and usage of out of-county stations (London, Norwich, Cambridge) with little concern as to the situation of the passengers who have to join or leave the trains on the interim stops in Suffolk.

I have blogged elsewhere the response I made to this consultation as your County Councillor, LD spokesperson for transport and rail-travelling cyclist

Sexual Health: Ipswich clinic  Free and timely Sexual Health care was instituted  by act of parliament in 1917 because the powers that be  – even in that pre-NHS time – recognised how important this was to the health of the whole country. Apparently there were more soldiers out of action because of untreated sexually transmitted diseases than were  wounded in action!

At the end of October, the Sexual Health clinic at Ipswich Hospital, which was purpose-built in 1991, was to close. Public health is now a county council remit. Although a number of interim measures are being instituted to ensure some continuity of services. I asked Full Council:  Can you please tell me what  facilities for immediate STI diagnosis (eg microscopy), for immediate on-site free dispensing of drugs (as opposed to by prescription collected from a pharmacist) and for co-ordination of contact tracing  Public Health is ensuring are put in place in the immediate aftermath of closure?

I was assured that these will continue at the hospital for the immediate future.

Park & Ride Ipswich Buses have taken back the running of the Ipswich Park & Ride services  at Martlesham and Copdock. Passengers will even  have access to free wi-fi as they travel.  Park and ride tickets will also  be valid on other services run by the company in the town. I consider this to be excellent news. If they decide to reopen the Bury Road park and Ride – as I have been calling for, since its incomprehensible and foolish closure – it will be even better news.

However  I have been contacted by a local parish councillor who asks if it is still correct that the County Council underwrites these services by over  £600,000 pa, pointing out that if this is the case, the business rate payers of  the rest of Suffolk are ‘giving Ipswich businesses a handout’ . He further adds that every P & R  bus journey needs a minimum of 20 passengers to offset the equivalent environmental impact of cars etc.. I am inquiring about this.

Tolling the A14? Suffolk County councillors are more or less united in criticism  of  government proposals to toll the A14. At full council,  the SCC administration accepted my party’s view that years of underinvestment in Suffolk railways has left us with rail services from Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough which fall well short of what is required for effective day-to-day operation and amended their motion on A14 tolls accordingly. Although there are government plans for a number of enhancements to the UK road network,  the A14 improvement scheme is the only one with an inbuilt plan for tolling. A s – in its current state – the rail system is unable to provide a viable  alternative to a tolled A14, it makes any decision to toll doubly unfair, because there isn’t the capacity for a reliable public transport alternative .

Anglo-Saxon Attitude  Suffolk County Councillors received an impromptu lesson in Anglo Saxon from Lib Dem group leader Dave Woods, when they agreed to name the Council Chamber ‘King Edmund’s Chamber’. (King Edmund ruled  East Anglia from about 855 until he was killed by the Danish Great Heathen Army in 869AD. He was initially patron saint of Suffolk,  but then went on to become patron saint of England, before being deposed by St George.)

While the other group leaders described Suffolk’s  Anglo Saxon patron saint in terms of his geographical location, origin and community spirit,  Cllr Wood quoted the maxim by which King Edmund lived:  Gif þu eart to heafodmen geset, ne ahefe þu ðe, ac beo betwux mannum swa swa an man of him (which, roughly translated means:  If you become a ruler, don’t be puffed up, but  be amongst people as one of them.) This, said Cllr Wood, was an excellent maxim for all elected officials to live by. And after he had translated it, the other parties agreed

Continuing Complaints: Ticket Machine at Woodbridge Station I continue to have complaints from people regarding the unreliability of the ticket machine at Woodbridge station. The latest complaint (today, 6 November)  was from a constituent who told me that “this time it said it was printing the tickets and then didn’t deliver. I now have to buy some more and collect them on the train. Now there is over a £100 out of my bank account awaiting a refund for two lots of tickets. I blasted Greater Anglia but they say the machine is not theirs.”  I am raising the issue with Greater Anglia.

Locality budget: Grit bins, Benches – and possibly an Ice Rink  The latest applications from my locality budget are for grit bins, benches and potentially an ice rink to support shopping in Woodbridge at Christmas. I very much hope the latter comes to fruition as it seems an excellent idea for generating Christmas footfall.

Having started the trend for funding local gritbins from the county councillor’s locality budget,  I suspect we are the market  town in Suffolk with the most (something like 37). This is excellent . However, the system relies on the public spirit of local volunteers, who remain thin on the ground. Having myself cleared miles of snow and ice along Ipswich Road and California over the last three years I would urge all our younger and most ablebodied councillors to put their shoulder to the broom too.  Many hands make light work.

My next County Councillor’s Surgery is on Saturday 16th November  10am to midday, in Woodbridge Library. No appointment necessary, but you may have to wait at busier times

Icy weather: love thy neighbour

Its very icy this week and the pavements and footpaths are horribly slippery – particularly in the shadows. Over the last 3 winters I’ve funded about 25 grit-bins around Woodbridge from my locality budget. They have been placed  in areas where volunteers have offered to help keep pavements safe. This means there ought to be one near YOU.

Gritting  Ipswich Road Woodbridge   (And if there isn’t you know why!)

Please think of your elderly neighbours and those more vulnerable than yourself, who may be housebound because of fear of falling.  Winter is not only the time for colds and flu, its also a peak time for broken bones. If – as happens in other countries – each of us made ourselves responsible for clearing the  pavement outside our house, many problems would be solved just like that!

 

Leaders of the Pack? 1st Woodbridge Scouts

Young people today they dress the same as each other… they’re always hanging around in groups… climbing all over the place..

1st Woodbridge Scouts make a workable 'A' frame bridge

There really couldn’t be a better description of the 1st Woodbridge Scouts.

I’ve known the 1st Woodbridge Group for a long time – indeed am immensely grateful to them. My daughter was one of the first female scouts to join the Group and they were amazingly supportive in allowing her the same opportunities for outings and camps and cycling and water sports as the others in the group, when many other organisations saw her epilepsy rather than the person underneath.

So she fell into rivers, she camped in the snow, she cooked hideous messes over fires – and she learned to be self-reliant, and hardy, and how not to come to harm. And she bloomed.

Of course, it was not just my daughter 1st Woodbridge supported to achieve her best, but every single member of the group, whatever their age or background.

And that’s what scouting is about. They support ‘learning by doing’ – giving the scouts responsibility, encouraging them to work in teams, to take acceptable risks and think for themselves.

Scouting is cheap – for the scouts, and their parents – because the basis of the movement is that everyone should be able to join and benefit. And so the scouting movement relies heavily on adult volunteers – people who are generous enough to give up one evening a week to help young people to hang around in groups productively, rather than on street corners. It is generous of them, it is public spirited – but let’s be honest, it is also extraordinarily good fun.

So much fun that maybe you should try it for yourself.

At the moment 1st Woodbridge has 25 scouts. There is a waiting list. The group  can’t take any more, because they would need more leaders. And if one of the leaders becomes ill, they have to cancel activities.. So, if you’re enthusiastic, practical and good with people, and – say – your day job involves too much sitting and not enough excitement, why not contact 1st Woodbridge?  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1stwoodbridge/

Local care for local carers: Wickham Market finds a solution

More and more of the UK’s care problems are being picked up by family carers, but who cares for them? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The government and the media and all the other movers and shakers may move shiftily and shake their heads despondently, but they come up with precious few answers.  I can tell them exactly how to move forward. Government and the media and all the other movers and shakers – you  just need to come and look at what’s happening in Wickham Market!

In this small Suffolk village the Wickham Market and District  Family Carers group  (a wonderful group of which I am proud to be a member) has created a trail-blazing solution to Britain’s growing care problem. In March, 13 volunteers from Wickham Market became  the first people in the country to qualify in an innovative scheme to provide local free trained respite care to local family carers!

Why? When the villages ‘s parish council saw local services struggling to meet the care needs of an ever-increasing older population, they recognised that it would be most practical to support the people who look after this population – the family carers. They also recognised that the single most important way of supporting these people was by giving them worry-free respite from their caring role. Their unique scheme ‘Local Care for Local People’ provides a pool of trained, accredited, insured – and most importantly LOCAL – volunteer carers, to respond to the present and future needs of people looking after loved ones fulltime.

After qualification, the volunteers carry on receiving  training, development and supervision. The knock-on effect is an improvement to employment opportunities for local people in our rural area . The scheme is therefore not only helping our local family carers, its contributing to the economic health of the community,” says the dynamic and diminutive Pam Bell, too modest ever to admit she is the brains behind this idea (she is). “Each volunteer has undertaken 56 hours of training by accredited trainers, 10 hours of assessed placements in residential care homes, plus course work. It a huge investment of time and effort for them to make  even before they start their volunteering role in the community. This is real commitment. From Easter 2012 we’ve been able to provide up to 100 hours per month of free support for family carers so they can take a break.  Our Volunteers are qualified, insured, CRB checked and supervised and each individual Family Carer can contact the volunteer they choose directly, no agency, no waiting, no cost!”

Family Carers are unsung heroes who, out of love, compassion, friendship, voluntarily care for another adult 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, with little or no support or opportunity to take a break. They find it hard to do all sorts of things non-carers take for granted – to go shopping, to go for a walk, to meet a friend for a coffee – even get to the doctors or cope with an unexpected injury. The idea of doing something really positive to help them – training local people to become Local Volunteer Carers – was born from their plight says Sarah Owen Williams who is Wickham Market and District’s  Carers Support Group leader.

“Almost all support groups for carers are centred on the illness of the person they are caring for. Yet the problems that all carers face are very similar. Once we’d set up a group in Wickham Market to help any local family carer, we realised that respite was the key issue for all of them. And that we could make a real difference to their lives by training a bank of local people to provide short term respite care when emergency strikes. Or just when somebody wants a little time off from it all. Why should their love and public-spiritedness give them no private time? Pam adds.

When employed people talk about the stress of  their long working weeks, they need to remember that a full-time family carer is working a 168 hour week without pay, overtime, sick leave, holiday pay or an occupational pension. You can be called on any time of the day or night.  Indeed, I spent a terrifying and upsetting night in A&E ten days ago – unsure as to whether the relative I care for would survive the night (she did).  It may be  stressful running counties, countries or big companies  – I wonder if it is any less stressful being on call for years as the permanent link between life and death for just one single other person. You certainly don’t get paid at the same rate.

And on top of everything carers are always worrying about what will happen to their loved one if they have an accident or became seriously ill. I was knocked off my bicycle three years back by a man driving on the wrong side of the road.  He jumped out of the car to see if I was badly hurt.

And grazed and bruised I might be, but I had my priorities. I burst into tears and said If you had killed me, there’d be no-one to look after my daughter!

Nor was there. There are no carers for carers.

But now Wickham Market has made sure there are!

And if you don’t live in Wickham Market, or district? This scheme is unique – but we would be delighted to help other communities to replicate it in other parts of the country says Pam.

So  that’s all there is to it. Go thou and do likewise, why don’t you?