The Autism Act is 10 years old this year. This has increased awareness and progress has been made in enabling people with autism to live fulfilled lives. But there is still considerable discrimination and misunderstanding particularly among employers.
The demands for mental health services are on the increase. But that just makes it even more important that those contacting mental health services receive prompt, joined up and well resourced care.
Red Nose Day recently highlighted the rise of suicide amongst young men. Members of the Royal family have launched a mental health campaign to challenge the stigma over mental health problems. This is helpful but more needs to be done.
Late last year, NHS providers surveyed mental health leaders to gain a better understanding of health care delivery locally. They concluded that “rising demands, in many cases, exceeded available capacity in both adult and children and young people’s services”.
An overwhelming majority (81%) of trust leaders said that “they are not able to meet current demand for community child and adolescent mental health services and 58% said the same for adult community mental health services”.
The failure to deliver specialist health care to the most vulnerable in our society can have devastating consequences, as the family of Julie are only too aware. While in deteriorating mental health Julie tried to access the mental health teams on numerous occasions. Despite these repeated interactions and Julie's involvement in a major car accident, which police were concerned indicated an attempt to take her own life, no mental health assessment was made of her condition. In the early hours of 22nd February 2018 Julie went missing. After a police search, Julie was found later that evening. Sadly, she had already passed away.
More money is vital and the LibDems have committed to that. But as the NHS survey indicates the money must be spent in the right way and when something goes wrong, as in Julie's case, each single instance must be investigated so that lessons are learnt and applied at every level of the health service.
Nick Coates says,
"we need managed plans so people don't get worse, we need safe places they can go if necessary and staff need the training and resources to respond to each individual circumstance. And we must invest more on prevention which too often is the first in line for budget cuts".
Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of Mental Health Network, recently said
"If you're going to be serious about the health of the nation then you need to start with mental health".
https://juliemhfoundation.org Permission has been granted to refer to this story.
25% of B&NES Care homes have a CQC rating of requires improvement or inadequate according to an Independent Age report published on 6th March. Although this is an improvement on last year, B&NES are still the second worst performer in the South West.
Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:
“The Tories' sustained cuts to local government funding is contributing to the fall in standards of care, as is their failure to publish the Social Care Green Paper.
Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset and also a Care Home trustee, said:
“This has just not had the focus it needs and deserves. Two years ago the Government promised a Green Paper by Summer 2017. Then after the General Election they set up an expert panel. The panel have reported and a Green Paper should have been produced soon after. I was at a Social Care conference last Autumn and Caroline Dinenage, the Minister, promised this by December, but still we wait.
“I know this is a difficult issue but for the residents of our homes and those receiving care elsewhere, and for their families, this is an immediate problem. The Government have required Local authorities to be self-funding from 2020 but social care now makes up the vast majority of spending. In 2019/20 in B&NES this is projected to represent 82% of the Council’s income. As a result spending on Social Care is squeezed.”
LGA research published on 6 March says “Raising council tax has never been the answer to fixing our chronically underfunded social care system.”
The Information Age report also says that “At the heart of this crisis is the chronic underfunding of the system with social care spending shrinking by £7 billion since 2010. Local authorities are planning to push through social care cuts of £700m in 2018/19 - nearly 5% of their total budget - in order to balance their books.”
Nick Coates commented:
“The Liberal Democrats are ready and willing to challenge the problems in social care. We will transform the care older people receive and reduce the inequality in provision. We will put a penny in the pound on income tax to directly invest in social care to reverse the deterioration in care."
Judith Jolly, talking about the lack of a funding green paper, added:
“For months the Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Conservative Government to publish the Social Care Green Paper so that we can begin to address this crisis. But instead the Tories have delayed and delayed this since the summer of 2017 as they fail to address the ballooning funding gap for adult social care.”
Listen this Sunday or on your morning commute to my latest podcast. I am in conversation with Simon Allen, a friend from North East Somerset, and we are talking about the climate emergency.
Freak weather, school strikes, cars and buses, air pollution and repair cafes are just some of the subjects we cover under this heading. Inevitably the subjects of Brexit and Rees-Mogg arise as well.
https://anchor.fm/unseatthemogg/episodes/The-Climate-Emergency-e3be7m - available on 11 platforms.
Friday 8 March marks the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. The theme for 2019 is “Balance for Better”, underpinning a goal for us all to work together to build a gender balanced world. It seems astonishing that despite the equalities legislation of the 1980s and subsequently that there is still a lot more to be achieved. Quite rightly we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We can all notice its absence and celebrate its presence.
International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the progress made in the fight for women’s rights, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the fights for women’s rights in their countries and communities.
It is some progress that more women are working than ever before. Today, over 70% of women aged 16-64 are employed, which is up from 53% in 1971. But is still below the 80% of men in employment today.
Despite these increases, there is still a gap that needs to be bridged and International Women’s Day raises awareness of this. We need to continue the fight and achieve balance for better.
Follow the events of the day using #BalanceforBetter and #IWD2019!
National Careers Week is a celebration of careers guidance and free resources in education across the UK. The aim is to provide a focus for careers guidance activity at an important stage in the academic calendar to help support young people leaving education. And it was launched in the Houses of Parliament on Monday. It is encouraging to see this being taken seriously at so high a level.
Careers are now included in Ofsted's inspections of schools and all schools are measured against the Gatsby benchmarks for careers provision.
Central to this is giving all our young people impartial access to good quality resources and empowering them to achieve the careers they are interested in.
This might mean academic study and it might mean apprenticeships - so it is no accident that National Apprenticeship Week falls in the same week!
Let's all see how we can encourage and mentor young people into as wide a variety of careers and futures as possible.
In a motion, drawn up by former LibDem MP, Tessa Munt, neighbouring local authority, Somerset County Council declared a Climate Emergency this week. Councillors from all parties supported the motion which commits the council to action to address the real risks deriving from climate breakdown.
Tessa Munt said about this success:
"I’m thrilled that so many people in Somerset have supported this change. The time for talking is over. The County Council needs to play its part and must start pursuing an environmentally-friendly approach to all it does. I’m glad that Councillors from all parties supported my motion."
Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate added:
"There is a similar motion going before Bath & North East Somerset Council next month which will commit the Council to become carbon neutral by 2030. I really hope that members from all parties support this motion."
A&E is once again in the headlines for failing to meet the targets set down and implemented by successive Labour and Conservative governments, including at local hospitals the RUH and BRI.
The Kings Fund (an independent charity working to improve health and care in England) has said that there has been a substantial rise in the numbers of individuals attending A&E over time. Although this may not be the main factor affecting performance, it can only be an additional burden for A&E staff when trying to meet Government targets.
Changes to GP’s contracts in 2004, where GPs were able to opt our of their responsibility to deliver out of hours care, has seen A&E under siege from those seeking out-of-hours care. Although a wide range of alternative care services are available, patients remain confused as to who to call and where to go when seeking out-of-hours care and attendance at A&E departments remains high as patients try and get their urgent health needs met.
In addition, emergency admissions themselves are putting A&E departments and staff under the greatest pressure. There is an increase in patients with complex care needs being admitted to A&E and with the lack of available beds this and rising numbers leads to mounting costs, pressure on limited resources and failed targets.
Following one of the worst winters (2018) A&E have remained under pressure and NHS England admit that hospitals are facing unprecedented demand. Is it any wonder that A&E are failing to meet unrealistic Governmental targets?
Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, says:
"Over last three years the government have taken the eye of the ball as the pressures facing the NHS have grown.
"The LibDems would put 1p on the rate of income tax and prioritise the spending on social care, primary care, mental health and public health. This represents the most efficient and effective way of spending these extra resources – ensuring they will have the greatest impact on the quality of care patients receive.
"This puts money into activities likely to reduce the number of admission to A&E".
Responding to the research by Age UK showing that more than 50,000 older people have now died waiting in vain for care during the 700 days since the Government first said it would publish a Social Care Green Paper, Former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:
“These figures are tragic for many families and the stories of some of those who have been impacted should give many in government and across politics pause for thought.
“People are turning for help in their old age and help is not there. Despite the crisis in adult social care the Conservatives are consistently and consciously underfunding these services and the social care green paper promised in March 2017 has now been delayed six times.
“The Conservative Government is incapable of solving this problem themselves. They must now work with other parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care.
“Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax and directly invest funds in social care. We will also keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system which will be there for our loved ones when they need it.”
Nick Coates, who is also a Trustee of a local charitable residential and nursing care home, added:
"Councils do not have enough money to fund social care. So they are squeezing the care home sector who, being committed to good care, are doing their best within limited means, but the system is a breaking point. And Brexit adds a further strain."