Innovate or pay more

innovationAt last Thursday’s Budget Debate I ‘suffered’ the full fury of the Liberal’s Cllr. Page, who decided this year, slightly ‘left field’ to launch at me about the money spent on Suffolk Circle.

It is interesting that Cllr. Page failed to comment that one of the programmes in the budget delivering the biggest savings is the Supporting Lives and Connecting Communities, this year aiming to save the council £6 million. A programme developed and instigated when I was Cabinet Member for Adult and Communities Services which has 3 or 4 core papers as the basis on which I managed to convince my cabinet colleagues that we should reshape the way in which we deliver services in our communities. One of these documents is the original work done by Participle the organisation behind the circle movement. It researched, over the course of a year, how Suffolk’s communities are connected, and why the differences in capacity between similar places exist and if the Circle could be a part of the way forward in Suffolk. This extensive body of work is a document I still refer to today in my role for the Local Government Association sitting as a member on the national TLAP Board and on TLAP’s Building Community Capacity (BCC) Framework programme board, from my point of view, its work is very much it is informed by the original Participle paper and to some extent our Suffolk experience of why the Circle movement did not work.

Another thing that so infuriated the Liberals at the time was the notion of providing start-up funding to a Circle model which was primarily not about providing services to those who can’t afford anything themselves but about addressing loneliness and connections in communities by individuals, in the social economic group just above those that qualify, who will pay for services themselves in order to stop them tipping into services. Interestingly this notion of councils having responsibility to inform and market shape not just for those who qualify is now about to become an actual duty under the Care Act when it comes into operation in April this year. Prevention and addressing the causes that make people tip into expensive services is very much the new agenda.

Over the course of 3 years we spent about £680,000 on funding the Suffolk Circle as a start-up, the organisation behind the circle movement is a not for profit social enterprise and the circles staff were drawn from the Suffolk voluntary sector, it hit its membership targets but did not exceed them and at the end of the three year start-up period the Suffolk Circle and Participle decided that they could not sustain the organisation and all the existing members were transferred to other voluntary sector organisations in Suffolk who took over aspects of its activity, programmes that are still running today. Since then the Southwark Circle has also closed yet others are still in existence. Much has been written about the circle approach and community involvement indeed the role of councils and other voluntary organisations. The TLAP BCC Framework, which I led a workshop on at the Annual TLAP conference last year on, attempts to build on all the different learning out there.

In terms of risk I suppose you are always going to have the Cllr. Pages’ of this world who just want to throw mud and not understand the detail but it important that Council’s innovate and work on how to lead the way to delivery services in an environment of less funding. In the period that the circle start-up was funded the Council spent over £650 million on Adult and Community Services and so in this context the less that 0.001% of its spending on something that was expected to succeed but did not was a part of the mix of service delivery being trialled, but we must keep trying to find new ways of supporting our communities and help prevent people from needing services in the first place, this one did not success but that does not mean you stop.

When we Conservative took over in 2005 the structure of the council was a basket case, 9 years later literally thousands of staff have gone and the council delivers more service today than it did then. But you know what unless we try new ways of working I suppose the only recourse is to do what Cllr. Page’s party did the last time they had power and simply keep spending without innovating and then demand ever more of people’s hard earned money to pay for it.

The Case of the Vanishing Protestors

Endeavour House PictureOn Tuesday prior to Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet meeting where the first item was the paper reshaping of Suffolk Children’s Centres and service, there was a protest on the steps of Endeavour House (County Hall) attended by a small pack of photographers and Anglia TV. I saw many Labour Councillors holding placards and of course their Ipswich Parliamentary Candidate who pops up anywhere the TV crews go, with his usual hello it’s only me! (Yet obviously was far too busy to actually hear the debate). So as I sat at the back of the Council Chamber, somewhat surprised at the lack of public questions, when the debate started I wondered where the protestors were. In fact I wondered so much, I got up and went outside and ask staff where they were and enquired why they had not been allowed into the public gallery. A few phone calls later it emerged that we had, in addition to the public gallery, set aside a room for the overflow with the meeting beamed in on a large screen, where one person was siting and in the public gallery there were 3 others taking notes, mystery solved? Of course the paper itself was well worth an read as it detailed the reshaping of a service to something it should have resembled in the first place, being focused on service delivery than how many building can you open. I recall as I was forming the Supporting Lives and Connecting Community strategy which is the driving force behind how the Council is delivery more services, to more older and vulnerable people yet also saving money by working better with local communities, (today I sit on the national TLAP Board and lead for Local Government on the Building Community Capacity framework promoting much the same thing at the national level). My counterpart in Children Services was busy opening a whole range of shiny new buildings as Children Centres. We used to often remark on the staggering difference of approach. On the one hand having less money to do things with and on the other, vast tracks of previous Labour Government’s ring fenced money thrown, as it turned out entirely unaffordable money, at the problem. It was one of many entirely bizarre Local Government situations which were a feature of life under Labour – we were spending money that we knew could be far better spent but were not allowed to deviate from the centralist dictate. So the County Council took the money and delivered what was required of us knowing full well that the service could be better delivered working in our communities not building so many shiny new buildings, as I say bizarre! I am not sure the paper is entirely right in all aspects as my fellow County Councillor for Haverhill Anne Gower made a very sensible, detailed and logical speech and I think that the decisions in Haverhill need to be looked at again, but other than that, now that fiscal sanity has returned to central government the reshaping is long overdue and the service will emerge saving money and helping more children and young families.

First Train to Liverpool

Ely Station with no a single other person about!

Ely Station 5:25am with not a single other person about!

A couple of Wednesdays ago I left home at an unnatural hour and caught the first train of the day from Ely Station at 5:30am to get to Liverpool in time for the annual TLAP Conference at Aintree Racecourse. I had intended to travel the day before but could not due to a Lakenheath Parish Council meeting I wanted to attend and I spoke about in my one of my last blogs.

Having got to Liverpool just in time to hear the conference opening words from Clenton Farquharson MBE who is Chairman of Healthwatch Birmingham and Co-Chairman of the National Co-Production Advisory Group and Sam Bennett who is the Chief Executive of the National TLAP programme, both of whom I sit on the National TLAP Board with, after which I settled down for the rest of the morning to hear the words of speakers at this important conference. TLAP stands for Think Local Act Personal, a nation programme board with many partner organisation promoting the personalisation of our Care Services and if you been kind enough to read this blog, you will know I sit on its Board representing the Local Government Association.

After lunch I co-chaired a workshop session called ‘Building strong inclusive communities. A Framework for Health and Wellbeing Boards’ where we talked about the new Framework for Building Community Capacity and how different Health and Wellbeing Boards are rising to the challenge it provides to put building the capacity of their communities at the heart of their thinking.

In the last Plenary of the day I took to the stage alongside. David Pearson, President of ADASS, Alex Fox of Shared Lives Plus, both of whom are fellow TLAP Board Members alongside Kathy Roberts from the Mental Health Providers Forum and Sherone Philips of the Nation Co-Production Advisory Group. The session was chaired by Richard Humphries of the Kings Fund who is one of this country’s leading thinkers on Health and Social Care. I was asked to speak briefly about the LGA First 100 days (of a new Government from May 2015) and what the LGA is asking for in respect of Adult Social Care and on behalf of Health and Wellbeing Boards across the Country. For the end of a long day it was heartening to see so many people remain for what was a very interesting Q&A session exploring the future of Social Care in a changing environment, relationships with Health and the cuts agenda that will be around for many years to come. Then it was back to the trains and the long day ended at 11:15 as I arrived home.

LGA CWB TLAP BCC – how’s that for Local Gov speak!

TLAP LogoToday I reach a small milestone in my blogging as this is my 300th blog, probably does not mean much to you but it seems a long way from when I first logged into word press, set up an account and well had a go. If you’re one of those kind people who follow it, thanks for reading. I do try to be as brief as possible, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. Hopefully it gives a bit of an insight into the things I get involved in and am passionate about.

Speaking of which, last Wednesday I was in London representing the LGA Community Wellbeing Board at two meetings firstly the Building Community Capacity steering group and later at the TLAP Board Meeting. I wanted to be a part of the Building Community Capacity work as it is very much what I started in Suffolk as we came up with the Supporting Lives Connecting Communities Programme (SLCC) about how the Council can develop services that communities truly need that compliment rather than crush the work that existing in Communities now and to help build community based services where there are none. In short how to delivery more services to an ever growing number of people who need care services but with less money with which to do so.

In the afternoon, the main Board meeting took place, where I am able to give the programme a sense of what Local Government and Councillors need from the various work streams and how the reports and initiatives its provides and funds can help Local Government can make its services more relevant and personal to those who need them.

The latest papers to shortly be available from their web site and being launched at this week’s National Adult and Children’s Conference in Manchester are called ‘Shaping the future- information, advice and brokerage in the context of the Care Act’  – essentially 3 reports co-badged with ADASS, DH and LGA to support the Care Act implementation.

I’ll pop the links to those papers up when they are on the TLAP website, the other recent ones that I think are useful reading are:

‘Getting Serious about personalisation in the NHS’ – Partner publication to the IPC (integrated Personal Commissioning) with ADASS LGA and NHS England http://bit.ly/1rxvKeD

‘No Assumption: a narrative for personalisation, co-ordinated care and support in Mental Health’ – with National Voices and NHS England http://bit.ly/1ywCMoU

‘A Wealth of information: your questions on personal health budgets answered’ – NHS Confederation briefing produced in partnership with TLPA http://bit.ly/1mG7gPW

Board Appointments

Last week I had confirmation that I’m continuing on the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board for my second year, following my two years as a substitute member. The work of the board and its voice to central government have never been more important as we look towards the next parliament and influencing the incoming government’s agenda around Health and Social Care from a local government prospective. This year because of the changes in the political control of the LGA we take the chairmanship of the board and I delighted that Cllr. Isobel Secombe, Leader of Warwickshire is our Chairman.

A couple of Wednesday’s ago the importance of such policy forums was reinforced to me as I attended my first board meeting of the national ‘Think Local Act Personal’ (TLAP) Board having recently been appointed to the LGA’s representative on this important national Programme board.

I am particularly pleased to take up this role as it’s got a real local community focus and making it real has an effect in the villages in my Division. One of the programmes I helped shape in Suffolk when I was Cabinet Member for Adult and Community Services is called Supporting Lives, Connecting Communities, put simply it’s about helping communities to do more for themselves and developing the community to support our residents as we face both budget pressures and a growing and ageing population.

In many ways the TLAP nation initiative is very similar but at the national policy formation, system thinking and lobbying level, so I’m really pleased to be involved. As I read through the considerable background papers to my new role it’s really interesting to see many of the organisations I drew upon as we in Suffolk came up with our policy are represented on its board.

on its board.

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