A very Merry Christmas

It’s that wonderful time of year were we all pause, relax and spend times with our loved one and family to celebrate Christmas and then the year just past and look forward to the year ahead.  However, for some it’s also a time of reflection of loved ones gone and sadly missed.  So, as you rush about maybe drop a card off to an elderly neighbour or pop round for a cup of tea and a chat about their Christmas, no one should be alone at Christmas.  It does not have to take much time but can make all the world of difference to them at this time of year.

My I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and successful New Year.

Social Care article for The Guardian


Week before last I wrote an article for the Guardian Newspaper about the future of social care and things our Government needs to consider as they ponder the way forward:

When you consider the plethora of social care papers that have come and gone down the years, irrespective of governments, you’d be forgiven for taking next summer’s review with a pinch of salt.

Yet, there is a feeling that this cannot go on for much longer. County areas are withstanding some of the greatest pressures in delivering and procuring social care services, coupled with the deepest reductions in core government grants.

If there was an easy answer, we would not be arriving at social care paper number 13.

Any solution must be long-term in its vision, but early noises suggest that next summer’s review could narrowly focus on funding options for older people.

Exploring a wide-range of options to ensure long-term sustainable funding, firstly to meet the £1bn funding gap that counties face in delivering social care, and for the individual to protect them from facing huge care costs, is paramount.

Whilst this is clearly crucial, the County Councils Network (CCN) argues for a more holistic approach, which brings together prevention, housing, workforce, and integration as well as sustainable way to fund social care.

We argue for a culture shift; turning the existing system on its head. It is currently too focused on the end result, or dealing with issues as they arise, rather than exploring ways to mitigate a person’s health troubles. From the individual’s point of view, who wouldn’t want to live healthier and independent longer?

This is best illustrated by how much media airtime delayed discharges get; an example of the reactionary nature of the system. We must shift thinking towards stopping people from entering hospital unnecessarily in the first place instead of institutionalised care; enabling them to be in control of decisions about the type and location of care they receive.

Housing reform will play a big part in this shift of mindset. The ability for people to stay at home and receive care – or at least to choose to do so – is hampered by the lack of adaptable housing, whilst for those exiting hospital, there are not enough reablement and rehabilitation services in England.

Another issue that often slips under the radar is the dearth of retirement property development: with 7,000 built yearly, whilst analysis suggests 30,000 are needed. The need to keep pace with England’s rising elderly population is obvious, but an increased prevalence of care housing and adapted properties will allow people to live independently longer. In turn, this means less demand on social care services and fewer delays in exiting hospital.

The green paper should seek to create the conditions to encourage more development of supported and retirement homes, including reforms to the planning process to better incentivise the building of these properties.

Integration of health and social care has been labelled a solution, especially in reducing demand. Yet for a variety of reasons, the agenda has not had lift-off. Considering that full integration by 2020 as originally planned is unlikely to happen, we should consider reforms to the way the current system works.

Instead of gunning for wholesale change in a short timeframe, government should be considering pooling its NHS and social care budgets as a precursor to full integration. Some counties already are; with councils and local NHS providers making joint decisions based around the individual; with the aim of keeping people out of hospital for longer.

At the same time, the NHS Tariff, which rewards acute trusts for patient contacts rather than outcomes should be reviewed; to reward providers for preventing people from entering crisis care unnecessarily.

In essence, we should try to build a preventative ecosystem that allows people to maintain their health for longer. This means widening the debate, to tightening the links between adult and children’s social care, and crucially, public health services.

It should also aim to ensure those currently ‘in the system’ live as independently as possible. Here, having consistency in carers is vital. Yet Brexit could impact on workforce projections, not least in areas such as Essex where one-third of its care home workforce are EU nationals. CCN is calling for flexibility in immigration rules to allow providers to recruit from Europe should they be unable to internally.

These solutions are only a cog in a much larger machine; there is no silver bullet to making social care sustainable. No-one is under any illusions of how difficult a task this is for a government, least of all an administration that does not have Parliamentary arithmetic on its side.

But without thinking long-term, and a culture shift that brings prevention into focus, next summer’s green paper could ultimately go the same way as its precursors.

Cllr Colin Noble, County Councils Network Spokesman for Health & Social Care and Leader of Suffolk County Council

The link to the article is:





Ipswich – the next English City?

Here’s the column I wrote for the EADT and the Ipswich Star newspapers last week ahead of the City Bid motion I presented to SCC’s Full Council meeting last Thursday, which as voted in favour of by almost the whole council with the exception of just one Green and one Independent Councillor:

 A strong and successful Ipswich is the key to a strong and successful Suffolk.

Ever since becoming leader of Suffolk County Council, this is something I’ve believed in and my motion put forward at this week’s full council, shows I’m behind it.

Seconded by Paul West, cabinet member for the town, we recognise Ipswich as the fast-growing, economic centre of Suffolk, driving growth to all areas of the county.

City status would be a real positive for Ipswich, and for Suffolk. Also, how great would it be to be able to say, finally, that Suffolk has a city?

We’re willing to put the work in – and it sounds like our partners are too.

In all but name, Ipswich is a city. It is thriving, with an array of businesses, shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and communities. It has good links to other cities by road and rail and is little over an hour away from Stansted Airport.

The town brings in a number of sporting events – hosting the first ever Great East Run, East Anglia’s version of the hugely popular ‘Great Run’ series, and staging parts of stages in both the Tour of Britain and The Women’s Tour. We also have the Great East Swim here, another fantastic sporting event.

There are also a great number of events in the parks as well, bringing the communities in the town together.

We’re going to have the nationally significant Upper Orwell Crossings too. Once completed, these will bring massive economic benefits to the waterfront area of Ipswich as well as the town centre – far outweighing the cost of building them.

The communities around Ipswich will be growing, bringing in more people who can work in town, spend money in the town’s shops. The University of Suffolk will continue to attract the best students, I’m sure. But Ipswich becoming a city would boost the attractiveness for those wanting to further their education, both from here in Suffolk as well as across the country and outside of the UK.

City status would also make Ipswich, and the rest of Suffolk, a more attractive place for investment. Gaining that status would, more than ever before, “we are open for business”. Businesses are more likely to invest in an ambitious, positive city.

While we don’t know when the next city statuses would be awarded, we ought to be prepared for when it next comes up. Being ready to put our name forward with a plan ready to be tabled would be a real signal of intent – because who knows – there could be a city status awarded to mark the wedding of Harry and Meghan next year, or further down the line, for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

It’s pleasing to hear that there is a lot of agreement on this motion from all sounds of the political spectrum.

At a time when savings are having to be made, there is concern over the cost of this move. At this stage, the bid would not cost the council, or taxpayers anything. But we must also think about the positives of a successful outcome – the extra money generated from the bid would far outweigh the cost of an application to become a city.

There are and will be people who aren’t necessarily behind the idea so far, but I will work hard to convince people what this would mean and what it would bring to Ipswich.

But I must be clear – this is a very serious bid to talk about the town and what it needs in the future, improving the investment already given here and boosting our already prosperous county.

Let’s all get behind it and make the city of Ipswich a reality.


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