Cllr James Rands - "We need to talk honestly about the Assembly Hall Theatre"

James Rands was elected Borough Councillor for Culverden ward in 2019. He is current Chair of Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats

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Improving Social Care in England - Health or Wellbeing?

We have heard a lot recently about the “fragmented” social care sector along with some rumblings about the National Health Service becoming responsible for the sector. I’ve worked in health and social care in England for almost two decades now and I can tell you this. In my experience, there is just as much good practice in the private social care sector as there is in NHS settings.

The NHS has been seriously run down over the last decade and it’s obvious that there just isn’t enough money to go around. It’s heartening to know that the government has committed £10 billion to health and it would be nice to know that some of that money – or a similar amount – is going into social care, but I very much doubt that.

Social care is anything which people may need support with outside of medical intervention. That is eating, drinking, personal care, social interaction, support with finances, correspondence, shopping, and so forth. It is the stuff that makes life worth living. And, while the NHS is very good at medical interventions, they’re not really so great at the other stuff. The medical model boils everything down to health. Deprivation and poverty are only seen from the point of view of how they affect health. Social interactions are primarily seen as a deterrent to mental health issues. Bathing and creaming are seen as a way to maintain skin integrity and so on. I think you get the picture.

While there has been a lot of press around care homes, not much attention has been paid to care in the home, although around double the number of people – about 1 million - receive care and support in their home as opposed to a care home.

There is a place for all forms of care and support in our society. Some people are best cared for in the home they have lived in for years, others may be better off in an extra care facility or a care home. A very small minority need to be cared for in a hospital setting.

Let’s think in a broader way as we tackle the social care crisis. Let’s think about health and wellbeing.

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Bins, Bins, Bins

Everything lately has been covid19 related but I would like to see our council in the borough of Tunbridge Wells get back to basics. The town is just looking a little shabby and, while it’s nice to see the new paving in the centre of Tunbridge Wells and the flower boxes which have become a regular feature, it would be nice to see the council fulfil their basic services. That includes pavements, bins and streetlights.

I returned to Tunbridge Wells in 2004 and one of my regular gripes is the bins. It’s brilliant that we now have recycling of a variety of materials, including textiles, food and batteries, but I regularly have to put in a complaint to the council to say that the bins of one description or another have not been picked up. Last week it was the orange and black food recycling bins and, looking up our street, there were at least a dozen such bins which had not been collected, nor were they in the list published by the council of the streets which had been forgotten. After a long day working with clients with care and support needs, as well as their families and our CAREGivers, the last thing I want to spend my time on is reporting bins and yet, that is what I have to do on a regular basis if I want my bins collected.

Tired of the situation, I put a Freedom of Information request into the council to provide me with the information of bins missed by street for the last decade. The council were unable to provide me with anything but the year 2019 because, they said, that’s when they changed contracts.

A quick viewing of the information tells me that some areas are worse hit than others. Obviously, one would expect to see more misses on long streets – one area being missed on one occasion and another on the next, etc. but there are areas which are particularly badly hit, mine included. I can only think that, in their enthusiasm to gain the contract, the contractors decided to reduce the number of person hours needed to collect the bins, forgot to include holiday or sick time or some other anomaly which means that they don’t have the staff or the trucks or the means to collect ALL the bins ALL the time.

I wondered how this would work in social care and pondered my situation. If I don’t have a CAREGiver to complete a call, I do it myself. How would this work with the bins? Would the office staff turn out to collect the bins which needed collecting? Would they be trained to do so?

Thursday the bins were collected. Hurrah! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, don’t keep asking our residents to report missed bins, potholes, streetlights that don’t go on or off at the correct times, etc. etc. Find a way to ensure that they are dealt with in a timely fashion. Hire inspectors if you need to but, after somebody has reported something once or twice, don’t just keep flipping them an email which states that the contractor has 4 days or 21 days to do something about it. Above all, don’t tell the public to email somebody else to report something. Take responsibility. PLEASE. Save our sanity!

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