Posts Tagged ‘volunteers’

Stepping up to help our most vulnerable

Monday, March 30th, 2020

As I write this blog entry on Sunday morning, the UK death toll from Coronavirus has passed the 1000 mark; the success of the Government’s excellent concept to shield the most vulnerable 1.5 million, 22,000 of whom live in Staffordshire, will be key to keeping the final toll down.  I am not aware of any other country that has adopted this approach, but it is inspired; this is a mild illness for most people – we see the Prime Minister continuing to operate digitally in self-isolation while he recovers from it – but for others, particularly those with underlying conditions and frailty, it is deadly.  We forget that flus and colds take many people’s lives in a normal year, and the key to containing this outbreak to those levels is for those most vulnerable to be isolated from the illness until well after the peak subsides.   We estimate that there are another 130,000 Staffordshire residents who are vulnerable because of their age or conditions, but lie outside the shielded group, a proportion of whom will require our support to remain safely in their homes.  The majority of our efforts this week have been in operationalising this strategy. 

The I Count Campaign has achieved an enormous 700 of our colleagues volunteering to change roles in support of the current crisis, as well as 80 students from Staffordshire and Keele Universities.  The most immediate problem is adding capacity and capability to the adult social care workforce, particularly at the top end of the spectrum in personal care – helping people living in their own homes to wash, dress and prepare meals.  This is to avoid the metaphorical “jaws of the vice” closing on us, with increased demand as the hospitals seek to discharge more patients to care for Covid-19 sufferers, and the workforce reducing as staff contract the illness.  We have already conducted our first 2 training sessions for colleagues this week – a day for each – which demonstrates the urgency of the situation, and we will be gearing up this week to recruit, brief, train and deploy more through our in-house care provider, Nexxus Care.  If you can help, please do.

The I Care Campaign has also launched, aimed at external individuals, partners and organisations to join the Adult Social Care workforce.  We are being deliberately broad in our reach and doing our best to solve the issues surrounding this complex and ambitious scheme before they occur, but with the peak of the outbreak predicted some time in April, we need to act now, and we’ll work out any issues that we’ve missed later. 

Lastly, I’m hugely impressed by the way in which Staffordshire’s schools have “turned to” and looked after vulnerable children and the children of key workers.  We have been quite clear that every Staffordshire County Council employee is a key worker, and, although many of us can work from home, there will be some, and I include myself in that cohort, who must go to the office at least some of the time.  Managers and leaders in the County Council are limiting those to the absolute minimum, but if you are needed for essential work in your workplace, please take the necessary precautions around hand-washing and social distancing and come to the office.  We all must do our bit if we are to get through what will be a very testing time in the weeks ahead.          

Meetings, volunteers and MPs

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

As I’m sure that readers will agree, one gets weeks where it’s fairly inward-focussed, and then weeks when the focus is outwards – this last week has been one of the latter for me, but all of the events have striking relevance for what we are looking to achieve.  I spent Wednesday attending the Midlands Engine Executive Board, where our Council Leader, Philip Atkins is a member.  I was there because we are taking over from Nottingham City Council as the Accountable Body for the Midlands Engine.  It’s a fascinating time to be take on this role, with the Government signalling that this will be their route to “levelling up” for the Midlands.  We can therefore expect that the large projects which Midlands Engine undertakes will be being channelled through us.  It’s a big job, but we are ready for it.

The meeting took place at the National Rehabilitation Centre near Loughborough, a pioneering example of cooperation between the National Health Service and the Defence Medical Services.  The Defence Rehabilitation Centre has been running there for 2 years, since it moved from Headley Court in Surrey, undertaking the physical and mental rehabilitation of soldiers, sailors and airmen wounded and injured on operations, predominantly in Afghanistan, but also worldwide.  A huge amount has been learned from this complex and emotional mission, particularly in prosthetics and neurological care, and it was excellent to see that the learning will be applied to civilians who are injured and require similar rehabilitation.   

On a very different subject, I joined the Canals and Rivers Trust for their annual meeting in the Council Chamber on Thursday evening.  It became clear from listening to this passionate and energetic group of narrowboat enthusiasts that we both share many of their aims, but also that we can learn from them, particularly in terms of mobilising volunteers.  Clearly, the common love of canals and boats gives them an identity and ethos, but the scale of projects that they undertake in rebuilding and maintaining canals and footpaths is breath-taking.  I left feeling energised for our People Helping People programme and #DoingOurBit.

Lastly this week, we welcomed the newly-elected MPs to County Buildings on Friday afternoon; Theo Clarke MP from Stafford, Aaron Bell MP from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Kate Griffiths MP from Burton, Jonathan Gullis MP from Stoke North, and Jo Gideon MP from Stoke Central.  The discussions were wide-ranging and very positive; they share our ambitions for Staffordshire – see above for the “levelling up” agenda from Government – and we will work with them over the next 5 years to achieve them.  It is also impressive that our MPs identify as a group in this Parliament, which will help enormously in gaining the advantages that we seek for Staffordshire.  Their constituency workers accompanied them to meet Kate Bullivant and her team to ensure that we get off to the right start in ensuring that the MPs’ Enquiries are correctly addressed, and I have to say that I was impressed with the excellent level of conversation and engagement in both sessions.