Category Archives: Care

SCC Liberal Democrat Views on SCC 2015-16 Budget

This year we have chosen not to attempt a detailed amendment to the budget but to comment on matters of principal at a strategic level on those service areas we consider most important.

The Liberal Democrat group is fully aware of the overall financial situation and supports the government focus on reducing the budget deficit.  However it believes that many services provided by local government are valuable and should not be a first priority for cuts.

We believe that the county should use the resources provided by government and those it raises locally to support the local population and the economy.  The Tories have diverted significant funds into reserves “for a rainy day”, and we have seen reserves grow dramatically during the financial crisis.  They appear to be saving for a “rainy decade” while cutting services NOW.  Funds could be used on today’s issues using reserves set aside for activities that will never occur.

The county must fund infrastructure that supports the local economy and ensure it is fit for purpose.  For broadband we can see some progress but highways maintenance is slow and inadequate.

The county should provide services that support a good quality of life for vulnerable people and those who have difficulty getting work.  We need to help people into work or help them into work re-enabling people who have had problems whenever possible.

ACS–Services for the elderly and vulnerable

Within ACS the administration continuously seeks to reduce demand making no increase for inflation or demographic change.  We support continuous pressure to improve efficiency removing bureaucracy and deploying new techniques and technology.  However, we must ensure that people are not just forced out of relative low cost services into those with much higher spend.  Into acute hospitals due to a lack of care places for instance.  The county should collect data on local needs, understand it and focus on those needs.  There should be clear evidence that needs are being met.

The cycle we see too often in our divisions, of a chaotic and disastrous end to life bounced from service to service must cease.  We find it difficult to believe that this can be achieved in the face of an increasing elderly population while we put money in reserves “for a rainy day”.  The problems experienced with care homes within the County’s contract are inexcusable.

The County must watch its strategy closely to be sure that the vulnerable are not being pushed out of the support system.  Cost reductions purely from lower wage rates or working hours are not acceptable.  They just move the budget problem to the benefit bill.

Public Health

Mental health services are clearly inadequate but at national level Liberal Democrats are taking action and we welcome the moves by Norman Lamb to establish maximum times for referral.  We believe that the County must play its role in this area.

CYP– Children’s services with emphasis on education.

CYP concerns us most.  The performance of many of our schools, particularly those in deprived areas lags the national picture.  While there are improvements, in key stage 2 reading, writing and maths Suffolk has improved moving us up the Local Authority rankings from 145 to 141 this is not good enough.  The Tory response is to cut the overall CYP budget by £6.6 million.

We have the “Raising the Bar” initiative but find it difficult to detect any real enthusiasm for it in Suffolk Schools or a belief that it is an effective approach.  A school governors commented recently “If the Local Authority continues to focus on such non-events as the distribution of meaningless and infantile rosettes, I think we can be confident that the Bar will remain firmly on, or near, the floor.”

Currently we appear to have a learning inspection service and we need a learning improvement service.

Leadership is essential but the enthusiastic effective leadership teams in our good and outstanding schools just don’t have the budget to cover supply replacements while they help others to make the leap in teaching and learning required.  They can’t neglect their own schools and let them fall back.

We still believe that the County should fund supply cover and in addition establish a small number of “excellence” teams who could work with the leadership teams in failing schools to remove pressure, determine what needs to be done and put it in place.   Excellence teams would need people with proven track records who enjoy a challenge and would need to ensure that necessary management decisions are taken.

The cost of such teams would not be trivial but would be small compared to the County budget and must be less than the continuing cost of failure.

The Conservative administration have been in control of our children’s education now for ten years and in many areas a whole generation of Suffolk young people have been through a failing education system.  This system must be improved and “Raising the Bar” is not working.

Suffolk Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy

The Suffolk Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy is a requirement under the Health and Social Care Act 2012.  It has been produced by the new division of the council working with the National Health who up to now have been responsible for this activity.  It will focus on four strategic themes:

  1. Every child in Suffolk has the best start in life;
  2. Suffolk residents have access to a healthy environment and take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing;
  3. Older people in Suffolk have a good quality of life, and;
  4. People in Suffolk have the opportunity to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

The next stage will be an action plan

Scrutiny on 1st May: Suffolk Circle and Demand Responsive Transport

On the 1st May we shall be looking at the Suffolk Circle (a membership scheme for the elderly to provide help through a token system), and Demand Responsive Transport.  We will be assessing how successful each service is, and make recommendations about how the Council should proceed.

Our interest in demand responsive transport revolves around the great emphasis that is being placed on this as a solution to the problem of providing adequate public transport in rural areas.

In order to get a good picture of how these service are actually functioning we have decided to launch a brief consultation.  We want to know what you think works and what needs to be improved.  You can respond by heading to the link below and filling in the short survey, by post, or e-mail.  The deadline is the 20th of April.

Care for an Ageing Population

The County is developing “Suffolk Flexicare” which it states, aims to “to focus planners and expert providers on the needs of an ageing population, to bring innovation and more flexibility helping people to remain independent”.  This will bring change across the spectrum of care and has both good elements and risk to existing services.  I hope that good proven conventional services will not be jeopardised by spend on politically correct innovation.