A very Merry Christmas to you and your family

Christmas day is here, the turkey is cooking and we’ve had the first Bucks fizz of the day, all the rushing for those last minute presents has passed! What they have got is what they have got and there’s an end to it.  Aladdin is on the TV and we’re planning the afternoon’s and evening’s games and telly.


I hope you had a restful and peaceful Christmas and fun seeing in the New year! For some people this time of year can be lovely particularly if they are older and do not have a close family to be with. In my household we have been rushing here and there over the past few days and had little time to visit our neighbours and so during the next few days we will make that effort just to pop in and say hello.


Making the effort is a small gesture but can have a significant effect on people just to know there is someone out there thinking of them. Whist the weather has not been as cold as we feared over the past few weeks and unlike last year, we have not had to battle the snow, the ice and freezing temperatures but my thoughts always turn to the older people in our community and the need for them to be stay warm and not be at risk of Hypothermia. The next couple of months are likely to see very low temperatures stay the same so if you get the opportunity to pop in and see a neighbour or relative I am sure they will appreciate the company and you can do a few very simply non-intrusive safety checks.


The key thing about Hypothermia is that is creeps up on people without them realising, and it’s this that makes it a killer. So pop round and simply check, does the place feel cold, yet the resident says its fine, you ask and they say they are not cold, but when you shake hands they certainly feel cold, they may be drowsy or fatigued, their speech may be slurred and they may be pale and their face puffy, or they might seem a bit confused. If you have a doubt call Customer First on 0808 800 4005 and someone will help.


Of course this is a problem every year and one our community together needs to tackle, us as neighbours and the wider community as well. Suffolk has been awarded £315,000 of Warmer Homes, Healthy People Grant funding by the Department of Health to help organisations help those most in need during the winter months on a localised level. We are using this money to work closely with over 20 partners to identify those most in need and provide the support required.


The Warmer Homes, Healthy People Grant is able to help people stay warm this winter in a number of ways, including both preventative and immediate support.

Preventative support includes arranging for better loft insulation and draft proofing and cold weather temperature sensors being fitted in a person’s home, and last year we were able to help thousands of people stay warm during the winter months and I am really pleased we have instigated roadshow information events- the first of these was last Friday 21st December at Wickham Market Village Hall


So we are urging people to get in touch to see if they or their family and friends are eligible for support. Beyond the immediate of checking that our neighbour’s homes are warm we can also help them as people mustn’t suffer in silence. Being cold in your own home is not something that should be tolerated; there is support available for those in need. To find out more about Warm Homes, Healthy People visit: www.suffolk.gov.uk/warmhomes or call 08456 037 686


Have a wonderful Christmas day and after the turkey has finally settled, pop round your elderly neighbours over the holiday period.

Housing LIN Conference

Last Wednesday I attended the Annual Housing LIN Conference (Learning and Improvement Network – yes I didn’t have a clue what LIN meant either until I got involved). It really is a fascinating space mainly inhabited by Housing Associations but increasing by local government, and commercial developers as well.

The conference was focused on ExtraCare Housing a particular passion of mine and very much part of the future as I see it; we were talking all things ExtraCare and its role in our communities with the plenary and break out workshops discussed all types and scales of developments and very importantly how we can fund them in these increasingly difficult times.

It’s often said in Local Government that housing is important which it is, but none more so than as we plan for our Ageing population, slowly there is a dawning that we can’t afford as a nation to care for the increase numbers of older people as we have to date, the NHS is creaking under the strain as is social care. The solution is relatively simple, we must significant improve the health of the nation and we must make offers of housing which people, self-funders and those we support, feel its somewhere they want to live rather than the ‘abandon all hope thee who enter here’ that seems to be the mind set when people think about retirement living complex’s. We should enjoy and aspire in all the stages of our lives, and that includes our housing.

Equally the suitability of where you live can have a profound affect on your health and well-being in other words your quality of life. It’s not just about what you can afford it’s about the range of suitable housing available in your area to suit your needs.

As we get older if you own your own home, that family house has probably changed from being the family home to being a burden, too big, too much upkeep in terms of cleaning and the garden and you need to be thinking about your future care needs. Yet most people hang on in there partially about not accepting the passing of time and frankly looking in most areas as the poor alternatives. The notion of old peoples housing complex fills most people with dread. Yet the best of ExtraCare is somewhere to aspire to and get on with enjoying your life rather than tackling the weeds.

At the other end of the scale if you have rented your home all your life as we get older there will be another family who will benefit from the space, so if choices are available then you can think about moving to something more suitable and you can be thinking about your future care needs.

ExtraCare Housing provides a setting usually two bedrooms where couple can live their older age out in comfort with support that will reflect their care journey; one of the hidden scandals of the way we have care today is that unlike 30 years ago where the men died first, today couples are embarking on their care journey’s and will probably finish it being separated.

When I get old, if I am frail I don’t want a room next to my partners I want a home where all my chattels are about us, our kettle, our toaster; Lisa and I may be too frail to use them and carers may come in and bring us our meals but we will have our own front door and if our care needs demand we’ll have our own bedrooms but we’ll be together in our own home. If I get dementia then my care journey will be quite different and eventually I will need a different environment to live out my life in comfort and safety.

The way care is organised today will change because people will demand it changes.

Also in a rural community we need as many people as possible to want to come together as the sheer number of care packages and rural travelling will make the costs and indeed the number of people required to provide it, un-sustainable.

That why ExtraCare Housing is so important and should be a part of every planning authorities understanding and responsibility sadly in so few it barely gets a mention in a sea of papers and strategy documents and this has to change.

Two years ago I launch Suffolk Flexicare and last year I hosted Jeremy Porteus the national director and the regional Housing LIN in Suffolk, where we spoke of Suffolk Flexicare and was delight to see the new national toolkit around ExtraCare builds on the work we have done in Suffolk.

To create a critical mass and expand the market to meet the demand of older people two things needs to happen, and I am obviously interested in a Council’s role in both!

One is the culture and understanding and Suffolk Flexicare seeks to create this and the other is funding.

And funding is a big problem, ExtraCare housing is not like normal development where you can build a few, sell them and move on to the next phase, by its very nature it has to be up and running before anyone moves in. It’s capital intensive and to date has been focused on the purely social sector which whilst there can be some revenue the capital remains firmly locked in.

So the real highlight of the conference was when speakers talked about the model moving to mixed tenure models; a private flat next to social rented one thus capital can be released as there is sale revenue and capital can then be used to develop the next scheme. Even more fascinating concepts came from people like Nick Abbey Chief Executive of ExtraCare Charitable Trust who spoke of the ability to have 20% social rented units entirely paid for by the private element of a large scale development like the Care Villages they are developing. He also talked about their Locksmiths programme, their dedicated dementia support workers.

I had a long chat with Nick and whilst we had never met before it was staggering the people we knew! He is the former chief Executive of Herewood Housing we had a good chat about the joys of waiting for trains on Ely station as the wind sweeps across. We talked about their company and he mentioned their scheme in Milton Keynes and I talked about the medical centre I was building for a client a couple of hundred yards away and so I watched their scheme being built – a very small world sometimes.

Nick announced the formation ARCO – Associated Retirement Community Operators – and he was so right when he said ‘Outside of environments like this, the sheer lack of knowledge about what we are trying to do is clear’.

It’s ‘horses for courses’ and different scales of development will suit different locations but the way forward is for Suffolk County Council and Suffolk District/Borough Councils to play their part, getting the culture and understanding in place so housing associations and development companies can meet the growing demand that will come.

The schemes are not for everyone and many older people will want to live as they always have but the key is to make the offer available to people so they have choice and can aspire in their future for the housing that they want to live in.

A Dragon’s Den

Last Monday I was in Cambridge for the grand finale of an exciting competition, led by Improvement East in partnership with NHS Midlands and East all part of the brave new world of better working between Social Care and Health.

Taking inspiration from the ‘Dragons’ Den’, the finalists had to come before a panel of Dragons which I had the pleasure to Chair and our job was  to find an innovative new product or services to keep older people out of long-term care, where it’s not necessary or what that individual actually wants. The other Dragons were Caroline Tapster, Ex-Chief Executive of Hertfordshire County Council, Richard Carr, Chief Executive of Central Bedfordshire Council, Alida Farmer, Service Development Manager at NHS Midlands and East, Simon Leftley, Corporate Director of Adult and Community Services at Southend-on-sea Borough Council and Steve Hampson, Area Head (East) at Age UK.

Cllr. Richard Stay, Chairman of Improvement East opened the event and I then gave a keynote speech in which I stressed the need for innovation in this sector, and about those that will need our help in the future will have the same care needs of as people today, we all will but they are not from the same generation as today’s older people; I told the tale of when a couple of years back I attended the inaugural Beveridge 4.0 conference on Social Care and it was not something said by the august panel members sitting on the top table it was something said to by a lady in the audience who stood up and said “you know what, I’m a baby boomer and I now 65 I not from my mother generation, the grateful as hell generation, I looking round at what you lot are offering us in our old age and I am not happy, not happy at all”. I stressed that we need to start innovation and creating a culture where innovation can flourish to help us address people’s expectations of the support they will have when they are older.

So one by one five organisations pitched their products and were integrated for the chance to win an investment of up to £100,000 to pilot their technology within a local Health and Social Care system in the Midlands and East of England.

The winner was tech start-up Mindings, a service which allows family and friends to send personal captioned photos, text messages, calendar reminders, social media content and much more to a digital screen in a family member’s home that they don’t even have to touch – helping to better connect families by enabling effortless, regular, personal and meaningful contact.  I sort of thought it was like Facebook for the technology-shy!

What really struck me was the comment by Stuart Arnott, Founder of Mindings who said: “My technology-shy Dad lives alone, 500 miles away in Scotland.  I always thought it ironic that I spend all day texting, Tweeting, Facebooking and the like, but the one person who would really appreciate all that stuff is the one person who, because he can’t use a computer or mobile phone, misses out on it all. So, I created Mindings, and now Dad can daily see pictures of his Granddaughter growing up and share in all these moments we tech-savvy folk share online. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share Mindings and help connect socially excluded people with their family and friends.”

We also awarded a highly commended to Just Checking for their motion sensing tool which monitors the movement of a person in their home to give people with dementia a way of demonstrating their capabilities, and in effect, put them more in control.  What was powerful about this was that it’s a relatively simply in a box system that can be set up quickly to help social workers and families to come together to understand the real independence of people living on their own and helps ensure they are receiving the right level of care for their needs.

The other pitches were great, one I know is being picked up by the NHS to develop further and another couple whist not quite at the cutting edge of innovation which was the key criteria we at Suffolk County Council will be looking to work with further.

All in all a really interesting process, a great winner and something I hope we can keep going as we work to change the culture and make sure that for at least one baby-boomer we create a care system that meets her expectations in the future.

You can find out more about the winner, Mindings at www.mindings.com and highly commended, Just Checking at www.justchecking.co.uk

Improvement East is a partnership of all authorities in the East of England – councils and fire and rescue services.  It is run by authorities for authorities, bringing together innovative ideas and services to support them to meet efficiency challenges and to improve and transform service outcomes for their communities. It is politically led and part of the East of England Local Government Association Local Government Association.  For further information visit: www.improvementeast.gov.uk.

NHS Midlands and East comprises NHS East Midlands, NHS East of England and NHS West Midlands. The cluster has a clear purpose in the following areas: Delivering for today; Building for the future, and; Supporting staff.  We are responsible for ensuring that the £26billion spent on health and health care across the region delivers better services for patients and value for money. For further information visit: http://www.midlandsandeast.nhs.uk.

 The other products pitched at the event included:

  • CareConnectMe – an affordable, simple to use automated service that messages people to check that they are safe and alerts their contacts if they don’t answer.
  • @UK Plc – an eMarketplace offering service users the ability to buy both equipment and services online in order to help them stay as independent as possible.
  • Pintrack Ltd – real time information through a mobile device which enables users to undertake everyday tasks, travel to appointments, take medications and receive reminders of what they need to do and when.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Last night Lisa and I went along to Lakenheath’s Sports Pavilion for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree, this year for the first year it was decided to have two, one outside the Village Hall in the middle of the village and one at the Sports Pavilion as you come into Lakenheath.  On my Flickr stream there is a photo’s of me with Tracy Whitehand who I have known all my life as her family lived in the next street; she is the driving force behind many of the village community events and its great to help out with some locality funding to get things happening. I arranged to fund the Christmas tree last year and Cllr. Gathercole my fellow FHDC councillor did it this year from his new FHDC locality fund.

Holding the community event in the Sports pavilion was an excellent idea as previously when the event was at the Village Hall on the High Street it was always a bit of a worry to have so many excited kids so close tothe main road, at the Sports Pavilion there is the space for them to run about and there was even a slide for them to soak up their energy.

Inside there were all manner of stalls and raffles; it was great to watch the fun and talk to people about christmas and our village issues. One of the things I talked to people about was the need to think of others at this special time of year and to just pop around with a christmas card to older neighbours and see if there is anything you might be able to do to make their christmas, it could be a simple as just saying hello and taking that time to make contact.

Once the USAF base commander had officially lit up the tree it was time for the arrival of Father Christmas in his sleigh which is organised by the Lions and over the next few weeks will be around the villages int he area raising money for Christmas charities. All in all its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

A unique Olympic Legacy – Suffolk Volunteering

Last Wednesday I had the honour of chairing the first Suffolk Olympic Legacy Summit; this was first thought about in 2009 and a number of organisations have been behind this since its inception. The notion that what took place in the summer with the Olympics can be replicated in our communities.

The project is almost unique in the county as it seeks to build on the amazing good will brought to the London 2012 Olympics by those who volunteered to take part. Suffolk is ahead of most others in developing and embedding a volunteering legacy.

The Summit was really valuable in helping to establish the 2012 inspired volunteering asset that we have here in Suffolk and some of the key issues regarding its future development.

A significant part of this is being run by Mike McCarthy who is the Suffolk 2012 Volunteering Legacy Officer and the Suffolk Volunteering Federation is a joint venture of 40 volunteer involving organisations. The lead partner is Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations.

If you are interested in getting involved either one a month or once a week please do log onto 2012legacy@volunteeringsuffolk.org.uk or http://www.suffolkvolunteeringlegacy.org.uk or call 01473 275196 Suffolk Volunteering Federation is a joint venture of 40 volunteer involving organisations.

In 2011 county Events Team volunteers supported 40 events across Suffolk with at least one volunteer and this equated to approx 885 hours of volunteering • Number of events = 40 (With more than one volunteer = 26) • Number of volunteers (Based on registrations unless specific info available) = 177 • Number of volunteering hours (excluding travel & training and based upon an average of 5 hours per volunteer, per event) = 885 In 2012 (to date) the County Events Team have volunteered at 40 events across Suffolk with at least one volunteer and this equates to date to approx 1350 hours of volunteering • Number of events = 41 (With more than one volunteer = 37) • Number of volunteers (Based on registrations unless specific info available) = 276 • Number of volunteering hours (excluding travel & training and based upon an average of 5 hours per volunteer, per event) = 1380 Indeed the website http://www.suffolkvolunteeringlegacy.org.uk has had over 50,000 visits since it was launched in September 2010. (The figure was 15,500 in May 2012) How much training are the Events Team Volunteers undertaking? During 2011 and 2012 (cumulative): • 140 Volunteers have attended Welcome Evenings (Inductions) • 23 have completed a First Aid Qualification • 12 have completed a Managing Volunteers Course • 68 have completed a One-day Sports Leadership Course • 10 have attended a Disability Awareness Workshop • 20 have attended a Volunteer Development Workshop • 25-30 have attended a Sport Maker Workshop Many of our volunteers have also taken part in the volunteer training, inductions and briefings that we encourage Event Organisers to host specific to their event.

The Legacy Project Officer is often asked to contribute to these sessions. Examples of these include the Great East Swim, the Suffolk Paralympic Flame Celebration and the Olympic Torch Relay. I do hope you can get involved; it’s a simple process of signing in online.

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