What will happen to health care in Thurrock after May?

THERE ARE elections in May. May 22nd to be exact. They are both local and european. You may have noticed and then again, you may have not.

Even though the elections are some six weeks away, the election leaflets are already out and about. They no doubt touch on some issues that affect the public and some issues that politicians think affect the public.

However, there are some that issues that some believe, should be of primary concern.

Health, adult social care, call it what you will, appears to be one of them.

So, we will be running a series of articles to see exactly what different concerns, different people have.

Firstly, we asked chief exec. of Thurrock Lifestyle Solutions, Neil Woodbridge what he thought.

Mr Woodbridge said:

“Central government has now started to clearly implement its austerity programme and the screws are really tightening. Thurrock Council, by 2015, will have had something like 40% of its funding taken away. You only have to go in to the lifts at the Civic Offices to see signs with ‘£XX million pound savings needed’ to know how bad it is.

Allegedly the CEO of the Authority, Mr Graham Farrant, has told the management teams that many of them will need to be made redundant.

With stories in the papers of the economy recovering, house prices up etc it would be easy to assume the country is out of the woods – but we are not. The worst times are still to come. Adult Social care is going to have to make some serious decisions about how to spend its money going forward.

The scary reality is that Thurrock is the third lowest in the country in terms of spend per head in adult social care – which is not something to celebrate. This means that there is no more fat on the bone to be trimmed off. Many of the people we support in the community feed themselves on £20 per week – imagine suddenly only having £12 per week; what would you do?

I believe in 2014 the council and health will announce big decisions to reduce their spend and that vulnerable people could be at risk as a consequence. The other reality is that Adult Social Care Council officers and elected members are really decent people in our experience who actually care about the people of Thurrock – they don’t want to implement the cuts but their hands are tied.

What the citizens have to ensure is the Council are clear on the impact of their decisions and that vulnerable people should be the last to be affected by any proposals to cut services. Our protestations need to go to central government. Thurrock has always had a huge reputation of its care for its vulnerable residents and its thriving voluntary sector – this must be maintained and it’s why I have worked here since 1996.

One big plan locally is to bring Social Care and Health budgets together to create scale under a ‘Better Care’ fund and this is a good thing – but it will only dampen and not prevent financial constraints.

What is the way forward? – working with many user led organisations means we spend a lot of time listening to disabled people and interpreting the intentions of the Council. Our view is that we could send out adversarial messages and start causing chaos with protest if any cuts are proposed, but actually – there is no money! – so our contra argument is that instead of working against each other we want to work even more co-productively with the Council. We expect to spend more time with senior offices in rooms, at flipcharts, in the community, with the people, scratching our heads and coming up with Community Solutions or explaining in detail what the results of their decisions might be. We are in this together.

As Edgar Cahn said: “No society has the money to buy, at market prices, what it takes to raise children, make a neighbourhood safe, care for the elderly … The only way the world is going to address social problems is by enlisting the very people who are now classified as ‘clients’ .. and converting them into co-workers, partners and rebuilders of the core economy”. This is the very basis on which Thurrock Lifestyle Solutions Community Interest Company was formed. The challenge is for all of us to take responsibility and co-produce like never before while still serving the community.


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