Tag 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!

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?

Demand Responsive Transport – the ‘Limousine’ that lets us down!

Today I’m venting huge rage on behalf of myself and every other person who is finding it hard to get  emergency healthcare or go  hospital visiting for six of the next  eleven days.

This is because of  the recent cuts imposed to scheduled bus services by the Suffolk County Council’s discredited New Strategic Direction. (One of several  ‘difficult decisions’ endorsed  by all Conservative Suffolk County Councillors, whether front- or back-bench  at full council. Cynically, one wonders whether, never personally having had to rely on such services, they voted in the happy confidence that  they would never personally suffer from the impact ).

Thank you Cllr McGregor – the man behind these cuts.

Thank you, Suffolk’s Conservative county councillors  for voting them through without a murmur.

What does this imply:

Clearly only patients who know car drivers deserve to be visited!

Clearly only people who are car drivers  deserve to access emergency care at the Ipswich Riverside clinic.

And very clearly you’re expecting only people who are car drivers  to vote for you and your party!

Cllr McGregor has told us that his ‘demand responsive’  (DRT) alternative to scheduled buses is the ‘limousine  of services’ and a fitting and adequate replacement for the  scheduled services he’s cut.

Not on a bank holiday it isn’t. On a bank-holiday, as on a Sunday, or any evening, it is a non-existent service. This is because it is  impossible to get volunteers – even paid volunteers like those who operate the CATS service – to work on Sundays and evenings and Bank Holidays.

Good news for all the other services Suffolk County Council plans to divest to volunteers.

I hope that everybody who has been involved in this shoddy piece of  decision-making will be forced some time to experience for themselves  the difficulties that I and my daughter have been in today.  That is, the experience of being  an emergency hospital in-patient or relative with no option but to travel on foot or cycle or public transport.

And for that public transport to have been cut on an ideological whim without thought for the poor, the sick and the vulnerable.

Let them experience first hand one of their so-called  ‘difficult choices’ ! Maybe with personal experience of the trouble and harm they have caused to others,  they might then consider abandoning their discredited ideology the NSD,  that has turned its back on other  – less damaging ways – to make the required  savings.

Woodbridge Town Council report December 2010

That NSD ‘consultation’ in full…

The SCC Full Council meeting on the 2nd of December voted  again on the New Strategic Direction – that is, the vision (some might prefer to call it a nightmare) of Suffolk County Council as an ‘enabling’ council rather than providing services.  Council looked at both the levels of ‘engagement’ SCC has reached with the public and local organisations, as well as developments in how the Council plans to implement the policy.

I pointed out that ‘engagement’ was very different from consultation (the engagement questionnaire never asked whether the people of Suffolk wanted this to happen, only whether they understood what was happening – go figure!), and  that the NSD had in fact been driven through without any public consultation by the ten members of the current SCC cabinet.  I referred to the 1500 (and counting) responses I had personally received from Suffolk residents against the NSD, which was three times as many as was recieved by SCC’s engagement exercise by the same date.  Additionally,  my colleague John Field mentioned that the 30% reduction in costs over 4 years bore very little relationship to the maximum 11% total loss of income Suffolk was actually going to suffer over this period (You can find the figures for this here and the full text of my speech here ). I voted against continuing with the NSD until proposals were properly budgeted, but the motion was carried 44-11.

This decision has huge – and apparently adverse – significance for our local services across a wide range of provision, from elderly care, to young person’s transport, to weekend and evening bus services, to who runs our library and how, to highways services.

I will keep you informed when I have any more concrete information – which is unlikely to be soon. The decision has been made without any of those who voted for it having any idea of what they are planning to do!

Two funds that might be useful in extremis

Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund & the Transforming Suffolk Community Fund

Presumably as a direct result of the above, Suffolk County Council has teamed up with the Suffolk Foundation to launch two different grants for voluntary and community projects across the county.

The first is the Transforming Suffolk Community fund, which looks to aid smaller community groups with a one off grant of between £500 and £5,000  to aid with the cost of the projects which will meet one of these four priorities;

  • Creating a stronger and vibrant community
  • Green issues including carbon reduction
  • Learning and skills
  • Health related projects.

This grant is for one-off funding and requires the spending to be completed within 12 months of receipt of the funds.

The second is the Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund run by Suffolk County Council, which looks to provide a grant over three years of up to £50,000 to innovative voluntary and community projects that;

  • Will integrate existing services or develop new ones with the objective of long term sustainability;
  • Will support sustainable voluntary and community organisations by helping them to help themselves;
  • Carry out research into needs and service provision;
  • Will develop innovative and/or transferable practices for delivery of new and improved services.

The fund totals £2.5m for the whole county, and is available through an application process at the County Council  For more information, and for access to the application form, you can contact either:

The Suffolk Community FoundationTel: 01473 734120  www.suffolkfoundation.org.uk

Or

Suffolk County Council’s External Funding team: Tel: 01473 264283

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/BusinessAndConsumer/RegenerationAndCommunityDevelopment/Funding/

I’d be very interested in getting personally involved with this

Call-in of Fire and Rescue Control Room  move

After the SCC Cabinet meeting for December  the Liberal Democrats felt obliged to ‘call in’ Cabinet’s decision to move the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Control room out of the county to Cambridgeshire. This means the decision will now have to go to  to a scrutiny committee to  examine the justification behind the decision – and possibly overturn it!

The Lib Dems asked for the call-in in respect of  the following points

  • Out of Office services – will these be transferred to Cambridge as well, if so what is the affect on the provision of these?
  • Why was this matter not taken to Full Council to ensure a debate  and vote amongst all members of the Council,  particularly as the County Council is the Fire Authority.
  • How will Suffolk maintain effective control of matters relating to the efficiency, scrutiny and monitoring of a service that will be run by an adjoining fire authority.
  • What mechanism will be in place for Suffolk to manage and rectify errors which may have a reputational or life safety implication bearing in mind that the S.C.C remains responsible but will have no direct line management over the people delivering the service?
  • Who is liable for errors – at the moment SFRS are directly responsible, have monitoring processes and the ability to rectify?
  • Why has the control room got to be exported out of Suffolk, why cannot this continue within Suffolk, for example with the Police?
  • What happens if an agreement with Cambridgeshire Fire Authority does not allow transfer of service until after the Colchester Road Fire Station has closed?”

The Liberal Democrats are particularly concern about the risk associated with moving such an important facility to Cambridgeshire, and the fact that this decision was made by ten people without consultation, preventing all councillors to debate an issue which might adversely affect the whole county. I have been approached by both local and county fire service representatives, anxious to point out  that this is a potentially dangerous decision to make. An option might be, for example, to see if the control room could be combined with the Police control centre in Suffolk, thus making savings while retaining locality.

These are the papers for the Call-in of the Fire and Rescue Service command and Control Function.

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_15012

Gritting

Due to our advance planning, Woodbridge is at the forefront of keeping people safe and mobile . Early in the year after we had all been anxious at the potential  impact of snow  and icy weather on Woodbridge residents  I offered to fund grit bins and equipment for local volunteers to keep the pavements clear and  Woodbridge Town Council were very proactive in drawing up a scheme of potential troublespots that needed addressing. And due to this forward planning Woodbridge has been able to tackle the ice and snow relatively efficiently.  Ten grit bins are on site and another four on order: Cross corner;  St Johns Hill/Castle St;  California/Ipswich Road (where I’m the volunteer); Fitzgerald Green; Mill Lane; Haughgate Close; Colletts Walk; Warren Hill Road; Market Hill; Victoria Road; Peterhouse; Portland Crescent and Farlingaye. There is also a few grit piles, one of which we hope to establish at the back of the Doctors surgery in Little St Johns Street to prevent breaks. It could also be used to ensure safe arrival at the library.

I hope you saw we were covered in the local papers, together with a nice picture of me, town councillors and volunteers in front of the shire hall.

As a volunteer, I personally spent 15 hours gritting around California, around the Seal and down the footpath that runs along the top of Ipswich Road.  I reckon that totalled about 15 miles of roadway walked and gritted. The interesting thing was that by doing this, it encouraged more volunteers to come out to help. Particular thanks must go to Jill and Ian W, Pauline H, and Patrick G who have all helped nobly keeping the Ipswich Road/California axis clear

So, if people express any interest, do urge them to contact the  Town Clerk and volunteer. Many hands make light(ish) work– and lets face it,residents will find it so much more productive than moaning that somebody else hasn’t done it.

Volunteers get to use a barrow, a snowshovel and a a hi-viz jacket; they’re covered by SCC insurance and the benefits include a slimmer figure, the warm glow of having helped –  and lots of gratitude. Not a bad deal, really

Appropos of this I would like to pay tribute to the people who run the gritting lorries who go out day and night trying to keep as much of the thousands of miles of Suffolk roads passable as possible.

It seems to be fashionable amongst certain Suffolk car-drivers to criticise these heroes pretty well without thought or reflection.  Me: I have nothing but the utmost admiration for them. The service is run via a handful of people working throughout the nights and they do a fantastic job – and all without expectation of any kind of thanks at all.  I rang a highways officer at 11am on day in the last cold period. He sounded a bit dazed (tho very competent). It turned out he’d just got back into the office having been out on the roads personally gritting since midnight the night before!

As well as remembering to be grateful that our service is so good, we MUST also make sure that any hamfisted attempts at divestment protect the efficiency and effectiveness that we are currently managing in-house. Other counties with privatised gritting services are not managing half so well.

New traffic island at the top of Ipswich Road (Clarkson’s Crossing)

There will be some sort of official naming ceremony for this at some time as – due to the input of  the Farlingaye students – Woodbridge now has the only named crossing in Suffolk (they christened it the Clarkson crossing, after the local anti-slavery activist). I am happy to see the crossing  seems to be used by the very people it was intended for, and I also think it might be slowing the traffic on entering Woodbridge. The LED sign half-way down Ipswich Road – which is on order but has not yet arrived – should also help reduce speed.