Out Campaigning with Matthew Hancock in Haverhill

Campaigning about the NHS at Haverhill Saturday Market with Matthew Hancock and the team

Today a large group of us were out with Matthew Hancock in Haverhill Town Square on a busy Saturday morning’s market. The weather was sunny and the response from those we talked to about the NHS and our plans to improve it, was really postive and well received. So many people told us of their personal experiences of going into Hospital, the Doctors and Nurses are wonderful but they simply cannot believe the number of people with clip boards, buzzing around all the time.

Thirteen years of this Labour Government has brought investment but it has also brought a middle management Culture of form filling and report filling that has nothing to do with delivering world class health care but actually blocks it as so much of the funding goes in management costs not front line services and this culture has to be reversed.

After the mornings campaigning on the Market Square we set about knocking on doors and asking people their views were, on probably my favourite estate to canvassing in the whole constituency Roman Way, lots of houses, not too many long driveways and once you have been up the hill, its down the other side and back around to your car; if only all canvassing locations were like this one!

There was a real improvement on the door step from just a week ago and I think this is largely due to David Cameron’s far better performance than Nick Clegg’s this week on the Leadership Debate and I can’t wait until we actually get to poll day and residents real opinions are heard loud and clear and Matthew Hancock becomes the new MP for West Suffolk.

‘Think Family Carer’ Conference in Suffolk

Yesterday the Chief Executive of Suffolk Family Carers (www.suffolk-carers.org.uk) and Chairman of the Suffolk Family Carers Partnership Board, Jackie Martin invited me and Graham Newman, Portfolio Holder for Children’s and Young Persons Services on Suffolk County Council to give the opening addresses to the ‘Think Family Carer’ Conference at the Trinity Park Conference Centre in Ipswich to an audience of about 200 Carers and professionals from the Police, Health, Social Care and the voluntary organisations.

Graham’s powerful speech opened with him telling us about his personal experience as a young man providing care in his family as he focused on the launch of the ‘Supporting Young Carer and Young Adult Carers in Suffolk’ Strategy and my task was to introduced the ‘Multi Agency Strategy to Support Family Carers in Suffolk’ Strategy.

Both of these documents have really pulled together the thinking and aims of Carers and those who work across Suffolk to support them. Both strategies are quite something, not focused on systems or data collection but the outcomes needed to really help people who are wonderful enough to take on such daunting responsibility.

In my speech I said:

‘I too am delighted to welcome you to today’s launch of the both the Young Carers and the Adult Carers much anticipated multi-agency strategy for Suffolk. 

My name is Colin Noble, and I am the portfolio holder for Adult & Community Services at Suffolk County Council

It gives me great pleasure to speak at today’s event and to join you all in commending the selfless and very demanding work required of the 98,000 family carers in Suffolk. There are about 700,000 of us here in Suffolk so that about 1 in 7 of us are carers.

In fact across the country almost 6,000 people become family carers every day, which is a clear indication of the widespread dedication to caring for a friend, family member or loved one that exists here in communities.

We know that the demand on family carers will grow, with increasing pressures as adult, parent and young family carers alike provide care and support for people with a range of needs and disabilities. When this is coupled with greater financial burdens, it is imperative that we do as much as we possibly can together to support family carers throughout Suffolk.

Family carers are so important as, without their tireless work to care for others, our local services would struggle to cope and the cost would be immense. The economic contribution made by family carers throughout the UK per year is a staggering £87billion, so we cannot for one minute underestimate their significance this is actually more that we spend on the NHS. As Graham said it’s estimated that figure in £700M here in Suffolk.

As we saw last night in the Leaders Debate when Mrs. Grace Lane from Bristol asked if it was right having raised 5 children that at 84 she received a £59 a week state pension to live on, which, I digress, is nothing short of a scandalous sum on which to live a life; During the debate that followed such a telling question, the Leaders expanded the issue to discuss the role of un-paid carers and the need to provide respite and recognise ‘Britain’s army of Carers’ and their importance in our society, this is of course welcome and shows how our aging society, the cost of care and family carers vital role; is finally starting to be openly discussed and debated.

With this in mind, the launch of today’s strategy is especially timely and is a powerful local response to the national carers’ strategy: ‘Carers at the heart of 21st Century families and communities’.

The strategy addresses the increasing pressures on family carers brought about by changing demographic and legislative requirements.

It also has, at the heart of it the many opportunities to provide care and support to meet the needs of each person as an individual, with the ultimate aim of achieving universal recognition of the importance of family carers as expert care partners in our community by 2013.

By setting clear outcomes within the plan for local agencies, employers and communities to support family carers, this represents a huge step forward. It is about engaging family carers, listening to their needs and doing everything we can to make their issues our issues by giving due recognition to the vital role they play.

The strategy and its action plan comprises 10 outcomes, tackling areas such as:

  • dignity and respect
  • development and delivery of support
  • a joined up response from all agencies and
  • the understanding that family carers need to take breaks, to assist in their own health and wellbeing. 

All 10 outcomes are designed to highlight the good work that is being done across Suffolk now and a plan of action for the next three years. 

This strategy is very much a joint effort.

At a time when we are constantly seeking better ways of working together to achieve more with less, it is so heartening to see such a successful example.

This applies not only to the work of local agencies from health to social care to the voluntary sector but to the communities themselves, in which family carers play such an important part.

In recent months, there have been plenty of innovative services to support family carers. I could name many examples, including:

  • support for carers to plan ahead in case anything should go wrong,
  • accessing better information, and
  • identifying short breaks through the pioneering ‘Time For You’ website.

There is no doubt that this is an exciting time, but we still have plenty to do.

This strategy provides an outstanding framework for us to work together to improve the lives of family carers across the county.

I would like to thank all of the family carers who gave their time and voice to shape this strategy, and to the many local agencies and Family Carers Partnership Board whose drive and determination have made the strategy a reality.

I look forward to talking to many of you today, and hope you enjoy the rest of the launch, which I am very much looking forward to.

Thank you.’

In the last session of the morning the excellent Red Rose Chain Film and Theatre Co. (www.redrosechain.com) presented ‘Bed Bugs’ a new short play about young carers by Joanna Carrick which was a very powerful piece about the lives of two young people and was followed by a excellent debate across the floor about how to provide families like this with support. For me the most telling part of an great debate was around why often families seem to try to avoid Social Services getting involved for fear of children being taken into care, I chipped in that the press stories where the focus was on where children had been removed were often very damaging firstly because of confidentially the real reasons for the need to remove a child could not be fully explained and the press simply does not print the headline ‘Another family successfully supported through a difficult period’. For me it was fascinating to hear from the professionals in the room that there is a real recognition that it’s not about taking Children away but how best to support the family and carers to provide a family environment not the sort of ‘Stepford Wives’ family model test or ‘else’ but a family environment, warts and all, just like most. The play and debate was really, really powerful stuff.

After Lunch Professor Saul Becker, Professor of Social Policy and Social Care University of Nottingham spoke about the journey of recognising and enshrining in law the rights of young Carers this county has been through in the last 17 years from a simple lack of any form of understanding and hidden nature of children who were often taking on unbelievable levels of responsibility at an often amazing young age, to today where Suffolk actually leads the way in this county with our strategy.

He also introduced us to his mother, who sat at the back of the room who lived in Woodbridge and had come along to hear her son speak as even thought after 17 years of working on his vision for Young Carers and speaking at 160 conference it was the first time she was to heard him speak at a Conference, and like so many of those who presented during the day he spoke of his early involvement with caring for another, as he and his mother has cared for his grandmother, at the end of his presentation he asked her if he did OK and she gave him a thumbs up, which was a lovely, my Mum would kill me if I did that!

Saul went on the talk about his vision for how we should support young carers for who, when they reach 18, across the county most support services simply stop because they are no longer children even though the care they provide does not, nor in fact does the support they need and often the support available to Adults is not appropriate for they as they seek to make their way in the world and still provide care.

He told a very telling tale of a young lady from the midlands who was moved from children support services to adult support services and went along to a Carers group for a music project to find that every one at the meeting was at least 50 years older than her and they were playing music from the war years and she never went back. In Suffolk I am glad to say they age relevant support is offered, something that is developing in Suffolk and a part of a wider body of work to look at all the children’s and adult services as our young people transition from childhood to adulthood whether they be carers, look after or simply in training and education.

In the break when I was chatting to Saul about where Suffolk was on this journey he told me that shortly he was invited to speak in Ireland at a conference to discuss young carers because they were in terms of recognition and legislation where this county was those years ago. Saul was not only passionate about his subject but a really great speaker who is able to get across the need for the county to adopt the sort of approach we have in Suffolk and make a real difference to the army of carers out there. You can read more about his work at www.saulbecker.co.uk

Of course this all of this work is about real partnership working and the next speaker  Julia Hiley, Project Manager, Carers Experience Lead – NHS East of England, Eastern Development Centre, spoke about the work the NHS was undertaking to educate health professional about the support services that were out there to help Carers cope with the roles they have taken on, she spoke about a recent regional NHS conference and that Jackie Martin had chaired it and the way we are developing services in Suffolk is being used to develop services elsewhere in the Eastern Region.

Clearly we are doing something right here is Suffolk but as I said in my Speech there is more to do as well; a fascinating day on an important subject.

Lib Dems get lost?

Tonight I was watching Look East and saw the visit of Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal leader, to Cambridge and out campaigning with him was the lib dem candidate for West Suffolk, which to be fair is not that surprising as she lives in Cambridge and it must be easier for her to campaign there rather than in West Suffolk.

I also read with surprise that the lib dem campaign headquarters for West Suffolk is in Bury St Edmunds. Now Bury is a lovely town, but it hasn’t been part of the West Suffolk constituency for over a decade. Maybe this basic lack of local knowledge can be blamed on the fact that the lib dem candidate does not live in the Constituency, and is a councillor in another County.

If the lib dem candidate doesn’t even know where the constituency boundary is, how can she possibly understand the issues that matter here? Matthew Hancock, the Conservative Candidate, is the only candidate from a major party who lives in the constituency, and he gets my vote; I suppose we could offer them a map of the Constituency if that would be of help?

Visits to Care Homes to discuss New Homes

Over the past couple of weeks I have been visiting Care Homes in Mildenhall, Lowestoft and Haverhill.

The tour was to meet with the Customers, Families, Carers and Staff at each home that will be relocated to three brand new homes if our bid for £30M of PFI Credits is successful which will allow the County Council to build 3 new Care Homes in the county over the next 4 years.

At each home I and a small team of Officers went through what and why we are building new homes and was a great opportunity to hear and learn what residents and their families wanted from our outline proposals. If you were one of those who came along thank you for taking the time to come and listen to what I hope was helpful information about our proposals to build a fantastic new care home facilities as part of a round of investment of £30million pounds for older people in Suffolk.

These meetings were residents opportunity not only to find out more, but to ask questions and have your say on the proposals.

We took along a scale model that intentionally was not meant to be any sort of finished model but to demonstrate the concept about what we are thinking to achieve and it proved quite a talking point at each presentation.

The first question we tried to answer was why we were thinking of bulding new homes. All 16 of the County Council care homes in Suffolk are rated core either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ according to the Care Quality Commission and the homes we visited were no exception.

I personally think this is both reassuring and points to the high standard of care for older people in Suffolk we currently and want to in the future provide.

However, we know that the demand for care will increase in future with a growing older population and more people who will have special care needs, particularly associated with dementia or memory difficulties and other issues.

We need to plan for this demand increase this means meeting the standards of excellence expected of care homes in the 21st Century, supported by research which shows that careful building design can be a tremendous aid to people’s health and wellbeing. We want to reflect this in our homes and meet the high expectations of the people we serve.

Of course, our main focus is to support people to live independent lives at home wherever possible, but when that is no longer achievable, we have a duty to ensure that we can provide the best care and support wherever people live.

So if the proposals go ahead, all the residents in the four homes we visited will be able to move into a new home in 2015 in their town, and we will help them prepare for the move well in advance and all along the way.

What we prosing will be cutting edge and what we actually mean by modern cutting edge is a home that in the background is efficient with modern kitchens and the best equipped bathrooms etc., but at the same time is designed as, you or I, would want it to be.

I think the danger when you here about a larger home is that you might think that it will be some large impersonal institution and that is absolutely not what it will be.

It will be design around small clusters of rooms to deliver a home within a home, warn, friendly, a place where residents will get to keep the friendships they have built up with their neighbours in their home and those who care for them.

We got lots of very useful and interesting feedback that will become an integral part of my thinking as we finalise our plans to bid for Government Money to build the new homes.

Haverhill Valuing Older People Event

This morning I was asked to open the Haverhill Valuing Older People Event and say a few words, by the Haverhill Older Persons Forum.

It really was a very informative and exciting event. Frankly it is more important than ever before that Suffolk organisations work together to support people in their communities to get the help and information they need; and although the day’s focus was on older people and their families and carers, this applies to everyone, no matter whom they are and where they live.

It was great to see the sheer range and breadth of services available from so many different organisations.

Haverhill is a thriving community, and whether you want to know more about local activities to help you stay fit and well, equipment to help you remain independent at home or even tips for healthy eating, was there at the Leisure Centre today.

I was at the end of the event told a wonderful story about one lady who visited the Suffolk Family Carers stand and was seen crying as she left, she was asked if anything was the matter and she explained that she had become a carer for her mum and thought she was alone in dealing with an increasingly difficult role and she was so relieved to find that there are others in her situation and that organisations and people are here to help, that shows the importance of putting on such events.

I would like to say a big thank you to Haverhill Older Persons Forum who have worked so hard to make the event such a resounding success.

This clearly shows what can be achieved when organisation work together with energy and commitment to improve the lives of older people.

Election up and running

Matthew Hancock and the team at the launch of his Election Campaign on Brandon Market

Bright and Early this morning I picked up our excellent candidate Matthew Hancock at his house in Thurlow and we drove up to Brandon to launch his election campaign; Matthew chose Brandon as he wanted to meet as many people as possible to hear their views on the Brandon By-pass proposals and to assure everyone he met that he will be working to secure the funding for the A11 dualling once the Inspector has presented his report. We then moved on to Haverhill and a team of 14 canvassed across Haverhill until darkness.

Also heard today that the Liberals have opened their campaign centre for West Suffolk  in Bury St Edmunds. Bury is a lovely town, but it hasn’t been part of the West Suffolk for over 12 years!  Maybe this basic lack of local knowledge can be blamed on the fact that the Liberal Democrat candidate does not live in the Constituency, and is a councillor in another County.

If the Lib Dem candidate doesn’t even know where the constituency boundary is, how can she possibly understand the issues that matter here!  You simply couldn’t make it up could you! But lets be fair she does have to drive throught the Constituency on the A14 from her home in Cambridge to Bury, so I suppose that counts!

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