Suffolk’s Social Care Conference

Yesterday I was invited along to give the opening welcoming address to the Annual Suffolk Independent Care Provider Conference in my role as the Chairman of the Joint Suffolk Care Providers Board. As I took to my feet in the lovely setting of the great conference hall of the West Wing of Ickworth House, I was minded of the recent criticism that Suffolk County Council took from the local press over the cost of using the ‘Stately Home’ of Ickworth for a conference a few weeks earlier to discuss Children’s and Young Persons issues.

Slightly different this time, as the conference is self-funded by delegate fees, but interesting points made by the press and questions asked – should your council tax be paying for such things and why oh why use an expensive venue like Ickworth House?

So firstly should the Council be using Council tax payer’s money to pay for conferences at all or perhaps they are simply a waste of time and hot air? Well I say we should have conferences, yes the expense needs to justified, but in my opinion conferences are powerful forums to get things done, in plenary sessions you can get messages across to large groups of people who can gain knowledge quickly that would otherwise take months of meetings; in workshops you can pull together people experiences and capture their collective thoughts and knowledge; and in the breaks you can meet others, catch up from a previous conversation and meet new people. In my experience conferences are powerful places for the ability to network, and talk with others, such conversations often result in hugh saving, better working together and better outcomes for the people of Suffolk, much of this simply would not happen if people did not come together it does not matter how complex or important the subject people do business with people.

So why use an expensive venue like Ickworth House?, says the local media. Well across Suffolk there are only about 4 or 5 venues, Ipswich Town Football Club, the Trinity park Conference Centre, Newmarket Race Course and Ickworth House that can handle such large numbers of people; and to be fair on the face of it, a stately Home owned by the National Trust would seem to be over the top and must surely be the most expensive, well actually it not, whilst all venue rates vary depending on repeat business, numbers of delegates, type of food provided at Lunchtime etc., etc., the some of the other venues cost more per delegate than Ickworth House. Equally it’s important that when the Council arranges a conference they are held across the county rather than just in Ipswich.   

Well that’s quite a lot to think about as I crossed the floor to the podium, back to my speech which I titled ‘Achieving more together’:

I have great pleasure in welcoming you to today’s conference, which is the third event that the Suffolk Association of Care Providers and Suffolk County Council have organised together.

This event is a highlight in the calendar for us to discuss and celebrate our ongoing joint commitment to delivering the best standards of care for Suffolk people and to look ahead to the challenges we face.

My name is Colin Noble, and I am Portfolio Holder for Adult & Community Services at Suffolk County Council and lots of our team are dotted about the room here today.

Many of you will remember Graham Gatehouse who was for a number of years Suffolk’s Director of Adult and Community Services, well earlier this year at the age of 76 Graham decided to retire, well not retire, after all he is only 76, but maybe do a little less.

We were then joined by Jenny Goodall who unfortunately was unable to continue in her role and has also retired; but I am delighted to welcome Anna McCreadie as our acting Director of Adult and Community Services, Anna please stand up and give us a wave.

This conference is important for many reasons, but especially because it demonstrates the vital role that you the independent sector plays and emphasises the close partnership with this sector and the county council.

As Chair of the Joint Suffolk Care Partnership, I am in the privileged position of having first hand experience of this close partnership in action. I would like to stress how critical this relationship will be in the difficult times that lie ahead, which will most definitely be a test of our collective commitment.

There is no doubt that we are here for one purpose, the same purpose – to provide the best possible care and safeguarding to the people we serve.

We already know thanks to detailed monitoring against the standards set by the Care Quality Commission that the care we provide is of the highest standard. Nearly 90% of the placements we make for older people in residential or nursing care are in either 2 or 3 star residential homes. In addition, over 96% of the home care we buy is from 2 or 3 star providers. This compares with the very best in the country and is something for which we can all be justifiably proud.

But we cannot for one moment afford to sit back on our laurels. I have alluded to the tough times that lie ahead; we all know about the period of greater austerity that we are entering.

On Monday the new chancellor George Osborne outlined the scale of the problems we face and some of the measures that will be needed to deal with the national debt.

From this the sobering fact that we will have to manage more demand and potential inflationary pressures with less money. This will not be easy, and we must work together through the tensions and challenges that this environment will create.

There are many unknowns in terms of the impact of public spending cuts we can expect.

The £6.2billion of public sending cuts announced on Monday are just the beginning, with an emergency budget expected on 22 June.

The coalition theme is certainly topical, and we must embrace the ambition and focus of what we can achieve together. 

Suffolk has a history of creativity and innovation. In this content, I am extremely pleased that the county council will formally launch the Suffolk Flexicare initiative on

18 June to demonstrate how agencies across the county can work together to find solutions to future housing and care needs for older people and our aging population.

Today 715,000 people live in Suffolk, 140,000 19% are aged over 65, 40,000 6% of them are aged over 80. Today 10,000 people live with dementia; by 2015 the number of people aged over 65 will have increased to 169,000 rising to 211,000 by 2025 – an increase of 50%; by 2015 the number of people aged over 80 will have increased to 46,500 rising to 67,000 by 2025 – an increase of 63%; by 2015 the number of people with dementia will have increased to 11,700 rising to 16,000 by 2025 – an increase of 60%.

In our business, a growing demand and concern! In your business it’s a growing demand and an opportunity!

We also face the control shift of personalised budgets and we will work with you so that as these changes are implemented we work together.

There is much that we can and need to achieve together, and the county council will continue to support providers as we help with advice and direct support around such areas as health and safety, medication, infection control and training.

I am looking forward to meeting you during the course of the day, and I am confident that this third event will be just as fruitful and dynamic as previous years.

We have challenges to consider, but we can overcome them if we continue to work with the same passion and enthusiasm that I feel we will see here today.

Thank you!”

That done, I could sit back down and enjoy the rest of the day, immediately after my slot was Awards to this year’s Winners of the Suffolk Dignity in Care Awards, who had be nominated for offering above and beyond care to those they work with.

Then came the highlight of the day for me, the truly inspirational Amanda Warring who I have heard speak before, at an NHS Dignity in Care conference at Stansted when I saw her ‘What do you see’ short film starring Virginia McKenna which made quite an impression on my thinking and partly the reason she was invited to speak at this conference.

During her talk she presented her latest short film called ‘The Big Adventure’ about dying which was extremely moving, what I personally find so useful and interesting about her work is the way in which she tackles very difficult subjects by sharing her life story openly and honestly and asks us all to step away from the day job of delivery of this and that and think about our loved ones and what we want for them from the services we seek to provide.

If you are in any way connected with the care business then you could do a lot worse that have a look at her web site and think about using her training programmes of short films and workbooks, she has certainly informed my thinking on care and its provision.

The rest of the day was packed with sessions on the technical aspects of the deliver of care and talking with people over a cup of tea at the end, I think everyone thought it an extremely useful day, conferences do play an important role in helping us deliver services in the face of budget cuts, inflation in prices and a ever growing demand from the good people of Suffolk.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

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