What we're saying

Computer lesson at WRVS Hanley Centre

Find out what we're saying  - where we share our thoughts and opinions and make comments on issues facing older people, volunteering and preventative care.

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WRVS awarded IiV status

Investing in volunteersWe were all delighted to learn recently that WRVS has been awarded Investing in Volunteers (IiV) status. It’s particularly satisfying as we are the largest and most complex organisation to gain the award both in terms of number of volunteers and geographical spread.

The award means that we are recognised as an organisation that appreciates and values its volunteers and is committed to ensuring that we offer meaningful volunteering roles. And of course that people have fun when they are working with us.

We are working towards growing our services so that we can help even more older people live the life they want to and that means we are going to need more volunteers, lots more. So having this award will send a message that WRVS is good at volunteering and it’s a great way to contribute to local communities by getting involved.

Of course IiV status does not mean we are perfect. We don’t always get it right. But there is a commitment across the organisation to be fair and open and to deal with issues that crop up quickly and effectively.

We have spent the last two years producing practical guides for managers on all aspects of volunteering and then working alongside them to make sure they feel confident. This was reflected in the IiV report when assessors visited many of our services to meet with volunteers and staff. Their feedback was brilliant; it’s clear that our people did us proud.

But this is just the start. It’s great to be recognised in this way but we will be continuing to look for ways to improve our volunteering offer and we are already thinking ahead to three years’ time when we will be going for reaccreditation. We have taken on board the points in the final report on areas where we could improve and have put plans in place to address these.

We want to be known as experts in the field of volunteering so that our stakeholders and partners have confidence in what we do. Volunteers are at the heart of what we do and so we will always strive to cherish them and encourage new people to get involved.

Why not volunteer for WRVS?!

Posted by Chris Dobson, Head of Volunteering at 09:30 Friday, 22 June 2012. 0 Comments

Labels: Investors in Volunteering, Volunteering, Awards

Westminster Eye: An insight into the week of politics 29 May - 15 June

Steve Smith, Public Affairs Officer England29 May

In the Lords on Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked the Government what was their response to the letter to the Prime Minister of 8 May from campaign groups on the state of care for the elderly. Earl Howe replied saying that the Government knew that urgent reform of the care and support system was needed to provide people with more choice and control, and to reduce the insecurity that they and their families face. He added that the Government would be shortly be publishing the care and support White Paper, and progress report on funding, which will transform care and support. The Government has also committed to publishing a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in the second session soon.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath then asked whether the Government would bring forward proposals to implement the Dilnot Commission recommendations on funding long-term care, and, if so, when. Earl Howe said that the Government had a clear commitment to reforming the system of social care to provide much more control to individuals and their carers, and to ease the cost burden that they and their families face. This commitment to reform is why the Government acted quickly to set up the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, which published its report in July 2011. The Government welcomed the report as a valuable contribution to the debate on social care reform, but funding is not the only thing that needs to change in the social care system. The Government wants a package of reforms that goes much wider, addresses the key failures of the current system, and ensures that people get the best possible social care. In getting the country's finances under control, it is more important than ever that all policies are fully scrutinised to make sure that every pound is spent in the best possible way. The Government had been working hard since the commission reported to determine the best approach to the future of social care in this country. In particular engagement meetings took place with stakeholders from across the social care sector to identify the top priorities for reform and establish the trade-offs between them. The results of this engagement are published and will inform Government thinking as important policy decisions are taken.

Baroness Cumberlege made an application for a debate to ask the Government what is their response to the findings and recommendations contained in the WRVS report into Ageing Across Europe, published in May. The date for debate has not been set.

Lord Smith of Leigh asked the Government when it will estimate the growth in the costs of social care caused by demographic trends will outstrip the ability of local authorities to fund such care. On 14 June Earl Howe replied saying that current pressures on the adult social care system were addressed in the 2010 spending review through an allocation of an additional £7.2 billion over four years to 2014-15. This meant that along with a programme of efficiency there is funding available to local authorities to protect people's access to care. Future spending reviews will continue to monitor projected demand and costs of social care. He continued that the independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility had estimated that due to demographic change, the costs of the current system of long-term care will rise from 1.3% of gross domestic product in 2010-11 to 1.9% in 2050-51. In light of this-and other estimates of demographic trends-the Government is committed to reforming the social care system. A White Paper and progress report on reform of the funding system of social care are due to be published shortly.

8 June

During questions from the press the Prime Minister’s representative was asked if the PM stands by his pre-election promise to keep free TV licenses and bus passes for the elderly, the PMS said it is in the Coalition Agreement which he stands by. The Agreement says: 'We will protect key benefits for older people such as the winter fuel allowance, free TV licenses, free bus travel and free eye tests and prescriptions'. Asked whether he believed we can acceptably debate universal benefits for elderly people in the run up to the next Spending Review, she said she would not speculate on the next Spending Review, but he stands by what is in the Coalition Agreement. Asked whether the Coalition Agreement wording rules out means testing, she said it protects what is in place.

10 June

Both Sarah Newton MP and Heidi Alexander MP posed a series of questions to the Communities and Local Government Minister on specialist housing for older people and what steps are being taken to monitor delivery of the New Deal for Older Person's Housing. Grant Shapps MP replied on 14 June. He said that since the publication of the New Deal for Older People's Housing in the Housing Strategy, the Department had published the Lifetime Neighbourhoods report to share good practice and enable local partners to create age-friendly, inclusive neighbourhoods. The Department also published the national evaluation of the handyperson programme in January 2012. In addition, FirstStop had published several independent reports funded by the Department: the evaluation of FirstStop by Cambridge university, value for money case studies of two local FirstStop partner services, and helping older people choose the right home for them: an introduction to the costs and benefits of providing advice and support. He added that the National Planning Policy Framework, published in March 2012, set out that local planning authorities should plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community, such as older people. Ministers had not had any recent discussions with housing and care providers to deliver the New Deal for Older People's Housing. However, senior officials regularly met with housing and care providers to discuss older people's housing. The industry-led guidance on housing for older people is not for Government to publish but it was understood from the industry group developing the guidance that they planned to publish it this summer.

June Valerie Vaz MP asked Health Ministers what plans they had to publish the data from the telehealth and telecare trial. Paul Burstow MP replied on 13 June saying that the Whole System Demonstrator was a complex study comprising of over 6,000 people across three sites and independently evaluated by six leading academic institutions. The results of the telehealth and telecare trial would be published in full after an independent peer review and that process is still ongoing.

Valerie Vaz also asked what plans the Minister had to bring forward legislative proposals to reform social care in this Session. Paul Burstow stated on 14 June that the Government plans to publish a draft Bill shortly, for pre-legislative scrutiny in this Session. He added that this was the first comprehensive reform of social care law in over 60 years and is a unique opportunity to modernise the legal framework. That is why pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill would take place, to give those with experience and expertise in care and support the opportunity to influence and shape the proposed legislation. The Government remained committed to introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity to establish a sustainable legal framework for adult social care.

11 June

Ben Bradshaw MP introduced an adjournment debate on Dementia services in the South-West. During the debate he expressed his concerns at "unacceptable variations in levels of service and support" for dementia sufferers and their carers. He also emphasised the need for early diagnosis, and said that currently fewer than half of sufferers received a formal diagnosis. The situation in his own constituency of Exeter was worse than the national average, with a rate of 35.4 per cent in the South West overall.

Ben Bradshaw asked whether the Department of Health collected waiting times data at memory services across the country. He also highlighted the variation in access to medicines for dementia sufferers, reported to be as much as 50-fold, despite the "enormous difference" such treatments could make to the progression of the illness and quality of life. Turning to the issue of the "financial hardship" faced by sufferers and their carers, Bradshaw urged the minister to bring forward a sustainable and equitable solution to the costs of long-term care, referring to the recommendations by Andrew Dilnot on the sector.

Responding to the debate Paul Burstow said that the Government will publish draft legislation before Parliament breaks for the summer, outlining its comprehensive plans for reforming social care. He confirmed that the draft proposed Bill would "address the fact that for 60 years, social care legislation had evolved in a piecemeal fashion and constitutes something of a dog's breakfast". He also acknowledged the costs of dementia to society, and said the coalition was committed to addressing the problem. Building on the work of the previous administration, it would focus on earlier diagnosis, raising public awareness, and doubling the research funding available for neuroscience and dementia by 2015, he said. Through its 'dementia challenge', launched in March, it was ensuring that GPs and other health professionals were referring more people for assessment.

Chris Ruane MP asked Health Ministers what research the Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on any effects of social contact and volunteering on delaying the onset of dementia and also how many publicly-funded elderly day care centres there were in each of the last five years. A reply is expected shortly.

On the same day Chris Evans MP asked Work and Pensions Ministers what proportion of pensioners in Wales aged 75 years or over live in relative poverty. A reply is expected next week.

Meanwhile back in the Lords during oral questions on the 11 June Baroness Wheeler asked the Government what was the timetable for the draft Bill to modernise adult care and support in England announced in the Queen's Speech and to what extent the proposals in the Bill follow the recommendations of the Dilnot commission. Earl Howe responded by saying that the Government had committed to publishing a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny this Session, and will outline plans for transforming care and support in the forthcoming White Paper. The Dilnot commission's recommendations are hugely valuable. However, implementing them would have significant costs, which must be considered in light of the growing demand for social care, and of other priorities. The Government will set out the way forward in the progress report alongside the White Paper.

In her supplementary question Baroness Wheeler asked that with local authorities having to cut £1 billion from current social care budgets, did he not agree that there must be a package of reforms that will embrace current and long-term funding solutions, as well as the legal framework proposals expected in the White Paper and Bill. She asked him to reassure the House that the progress report accompanying the White Paper will contain a clear timetable for consultation on funding issues. Would he also reassure the House that the Government intends to honour the Prime Minister's pledge to deal with social care funding in this Parliament. Earl Howe reminded the peers that this was the first reform of social care law in more than 60 years. It was a unique opportunity to get the legal framework right which is why the Government had deliberately taken time to engage fully with those who have experience and expertise in care and support. Many people in the sector have called explicitly for scrutiny on a draft Bill, so publishing a Bill in this way demonstrates our commitment to working in partnership. The Government remained absolutely committed to introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity in this Parliament to establish a sustainable legal framework for adult social care. The draft Bill would be the critical next step in delivering the reform agenda.

In the short round of questions that ensued Baroness Barker asked what was the Government response to the proposal that some universal benefits that currently go to wealthy pensioners should be restricted to enable the implementation of the Dilnot report. Earl Howe said that this was an issue that has been very much in Ministers sights as the progress report on funding had been prepared. He asked her to be patient a little longer until the report is published.

Baroness Pitkeathley joined the debate asked how the White Paper would ensure adequate and indeed satisfactory quality for the delivery of residential care, and also the competence of those who deliver it. Earl Howe in his response said that one of the main reasons that the Government had engaged widely in recent months with the sector was for that very issue. The quality of social care, the training of those in the workforce and the supply of carers, both paid and unpaid, were concerns going into the future. He said that this would be a major focus of the White Paper.

Baroness Greengross sought reassurance that the Government will take into account the huge savings to the NHS which, following the initial costs, would result from implementing the Dilnot proposals. The cost of implementation was very limited compared with the huge annual costs of such care to the NHS. Adequate social care would remove much of that from the NHS. Earl Howe said that it must be recognised that Ministers in government cannot ignore cost pressures arising from proposals such as those of Dilnot. These costs had been calculated at £2.2 billion. This is not money that can be drummed up easily but the Government was looking at ways in which to address that particular issue.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham pointed out that the higher rate tax relief on pensions-as part of the total of £30 billion of tax relief-amounted to £7 billion a year. Were that money ring-fenced and redistributed within the same age group it could pay for Dilnot three times over. Earl Howe said that he would make sure that the suggestion was fed in to the discussions currently in train on that subject.

12 June

Questions continued to flow in the Lords. Lord Turnberg asked the Government whether the Secretary of State for Health's mandate for the NHS Commissioning Board will include the improvement of the care of older people with dignity. Earl Howe stated that the Government had been clear that kindness and compassion, dignity and respect must be central to care, whoever provides it and wherever it is provided. Decisions about the content of the mandate would be made in a transparent way on the basis of a full public consultation, which would take place this summer.

Baroness Greengross asked the Government what assessment they had made of spending on adult social care services by local authorities in the last year. Earl Howe replied saying that net expenditure on adult social care in 2010-11 was £14,605 million. This was the latest year for which data are available.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked the Government whether they will ensure that tackling inequalities is a key priority in healthcare when the funding formula for allocations to primary care trusts and clinical commissioning groups were weighted according to the number of elderly people; and, if so, how. In replying Earl Howe said that the final round of primary care trust allocations was made on 14 December 2011 for 2012-13. From 2013-14, the NHS Commissioning Board would allocate resources to clinical commissioning groups. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 contains the first ever legal duties on health inequalities for National Health Service commissioners and the Secretary of State. The NHS Commissioning Board was under a duty to have regard to the need to reduce inequalities in access to, and the outcomes of, healthcare. This applies to everything it does, including its approach to allocating resources.

Lord Warner tabled questions for written reply. He asked the Government how much local authorities spent on adult social care (in constant prices) in 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. He also asked the Government what proportion of the additional funding for rehabilitation and adult social care services made available to the National Health Service and local government following the 2010 budget has been spent on the services for which the money was intended; and what measures are in place to monitor whether that funding is used for the purposes intended. Both questions are due for reply on 25 June.

During Health Oral Questions on 12 June Liz Kendall MP said that in their 2010 NHS White Paper, the Government promised legislation on a new legal and financial framework for social care. However, last month's Queen's Speech included only a draft Bill, on social care law alone. She said that the care crisis cannot be tackled without tackling the funding crisis, and urged the Minister to agree to Labour's call for legislation on a new system for funding social care in this Parliament. Andrew Lansley MP replied saying that it had been made clear that the Government intended to publish both a White Paper on the reform of social care law and, alongside it, a progress report on the reform of the funding of adult care. The Government will do both those things soon.

Barbara Keeley MP commented on the answer claiming that the Government did not promise to provide a progress report on funding, but to legislate in this Session to reform social care funding. Social care is now widely seen as being in crisis. She asked if the Secretary of State would commit to acting urgently-because urgency was needed now to tackle the crisis. Andrew Lansley corrected the hon. Lady saying that there was no commitment to legislate in the current Session. What was made clear was that Government would publish a White Paper and a progress report on funding reform. The Government intended to act urgently.

Posted by Steve Smith Public Affairs Manager (England) at 00:00 Thursday, 21 June 2012. 0 Comments

Labels: WRVS Ageing Across Europe

Wales: a good place to grow old?

Dr_Ed_BridgesI was privileged yesterday to attend the launch of a new report by Age Alliance Wales on whether or not Wales is a good place to grow old.

Age Alliance Wales is an umbrella organisation, of which WRVS is a member, helping charities and service providers to speak to the Welsh Government with a clear voice on issues affecting older people. The new report, co-authored with the Bevan Foundation, makes for interesting reading.

As some of the media reports have already noted, it reveals glaring inconsistencies in how much Welsh local authorities are spending on older people. Furthermore, support for older people when they leave hospital was often shown to be patchy.

Yesterday’s launch was both encouraging and unsettling in equal measure. Excellent speeches from BBC Wales’ Roy Noble and the new Older People’s Commissioner, Sarah Rochira, managed inspire a sense of optimism about what we could do in Wales if the resources allowed. Yet underlying that – and key to the report – is a sense that there so much work which needs to be done if we are to make things better. In addition to the challenges mentioned above, the report is clear that older people in Wales are often in poor physical health, are often lonely, and often experience difficulty in accessing services. With Wales’ older population rising faster than any other part of the UK, this is a problem which is set to increase unless action is taken.

The line which hit me hardest yesterday was the testimony of an older person who met with the new Older People’s Commissioner, and told her that all she needed to make her happy were three things – something to love, something to do and something to look forward to. For all the public policy strategies, jargon and frameworks, that ambition underlines what really matters – providing older people with what they think makes for a happy and healthy life.

If we can help older people to have those three things, then we truly will have made Wales a good place to grow old.

Posted by Dr Ed Bridges, Public Affairs Manager (Wales) at 00:00 Thursday, 14 June 2012. 0 Comments

Labels: Age Alliance Wales, older people, health, loneliness, Welsh Government

Value of preventative care - the evidence grows

There is a clear and unambiguous message in the report “Taking Stock: assessing the value of preventative care” published by the British Red Cross earlier this week.

With the Government’s white paper on social care due at any time, this report is a timely reminder how important early low level interventions can not only be good for the individual concerned but good for the taxpayer too.

The report highlights the value of time-limited practical and emotional support which responds to people’s individual needs and wishes at times of transition and vulnerability. This personalised support helps older people live independently and with dignity in their communities. This is not a new message. It is one which WRVS has been evangelising for some time. But it is particularly helpful at this time to have another highly respected body producing more evidence that shows that not only are people’s lives greatly improved but that vast savings can be made. The report reveals that in five case studies, savings ranged from between £700- £10,430 per person. This reflects a return on investment of on average 3.5 to 1 and in some cases much higher. This mirrors the findings of an evaluation of WRVS services in Leicestershire and Staffordshire last year made by Frontier Economics. The results showed a return of £1.9million on an investment of £957k, equivalent to a 98% return in a single year in Leicester and a return of £601k on an investment of just over £285k, equivalent to a 111% return in a single year for Staffordshire.

In times when finances are tight this makes it all the more important that those with commissioning responsibilities take note of the services that organisations such as the British Red Cross and WRVS offer and begin to fully utilise those local community assets.

The legislation around social care has been added to on a piecemeal basis since 1948. The highly anticipated White Paper and subsequent Social Care Bill provides a unique and once in a generation opportunity to make prevention and early intervention a key theme as the social care system In England is reformed for the 21st Century and beyond.

Posted by Steve Smith Public Affairs Manager (England) at 00:00 Wednesday, 13 June 2012. 0 Comments

Labels: Red Cross, Prevention, preventative care, Social Care, White paper

Growing old in the UK - is it all bad news?

Ageing_Across_Europe_reportWRVS’ recent report, Ageing Across Europe, produced by Demos, paints a stark picture of growing old in this country. Our older people are proven to be the loneliest, poorest and the most worried that they are discriminated against because of their age, of the countries examined.

But is it all doom and gloom? The whole point of looking at the countries that we did: Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as the UK, was that these are countries that are in many ways – particularly in terms of wealth – similar to us. So we should be able to learn from the good things that Sweden and the Netherlands are doing (who came first and second on the experience of ageing, compared to our third) and replicate them in this country.

In Sweden, for example, there is a much greater focus on spending money on preventing health problems which get significantly worse later in life, by tackling the issues that cause them. So obesity, which we know can lead to diabetes in later life, is tackled earlier through public health programmes, as is smoking and drinking.

We do a lot of talking about “prevention” in this country, but given that this study shows that in the UK we have the highest prevalence of what is euphemistically called “life limiting illness” amongst older people, surely this is an indication that the public health messages to do with healthy eating and less drinking are not getting through? Or, at least, not as effectively as in those other countries. As David McCullough, WRVS chief executive, commented on the publication of the report – surely it should be a wake-up call for all of us?

So plenty of food for thought for local and central government, but what about for us as individuals? Well one interesting finding from the report, particularly from WRVS’ point of view, is that in Sweden and the Netherlands, there are much higher rates of volunteering. In Sweden - 55% of people volunteer, it’s 50% in the Netherlands , 45% of Germans volunteer and we lag behind at 26%. Separate WRVS research found that older people that volunteer actually improve their sense of wellbeing simply through helping others. People also get a sense of personal satisfaction from seeing their voluntary work is appreciated. Take note voluntary organisations – a pat on the back helps!

It’s common sense really that by giving back to your community, you are not only improving your own sense of worth, but you are also meeting people and staying active and so helping prevent the issues we so often, sadly, see amongst older people whereby they are housebound seeing few people, if any, from day to day. So, by volunteering, you help others but also help yourself. If encouraging more volunteering can help tackle the parlous state of ageing in this country, then that should be the positive that we can take from this shocking report.

Posted by Sarah Farndale, WRVS at 00:00 Wednesday, 06 June 2012. 0 Comments

Labels: Ageing, Wellbeing, Older people, Europe, volunteering, prevention, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands

Westminster Eye: An insight into the week of politics 21-25 May

Steve_Smith_Public_Affairs_Manager_EnglandIn the House of Lords during Oral Questions the Earl of Clancarty asked the Government whether they would reconsider their decision to cap income tax reliefs on charitable donations to the arts, universities and other areas. A reply is expected on 14 June.

Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd announced a raft of measures designed to encourage more people to volunteer and to make it easier for people to run charities. The steps taken to make it easier for people to volunteer include:

  • a "Volunteer Code of Good Practice" stating that volunteering is not a generally risky activity and setting out simple guidelines that will reduce any risk there might be;
  • guidance from the Association of British Insurers on 'How to run an event' giving volunteers advice on how to arrange appropriate insurance;
  • ABI's "Volunteer Driving - The Motor Insurance Commitment" which has encouraged insurers not to charge additional premiums for volunteer drivers. 66 insurance companies have already signed up, covering over 90% of all drivers. WRVS has over 10,000 volunteer drivers alone; and
  • new legislation the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 will radically improve the "portability" of CRB certificates so that people can volunteer using the same certificate as they do for employment. This change will lead to a big reduction in the need for repeat checks on the same individual reducing the time and costs incurred.

Monday 21 May

Nick Smith MP received a reply from Paul Burstow MP relating to his question on what systems are in place to minimise the impact of provider failure on users of care and nursing homes. He also asked who is responsible for oversight of the financial viability of private companies that provide care and nursing home services. Paul Burstow said that the responsibility for providing or arranging residential care rests with local authorities, which have specific duties of care to their populations under the National Assistance Act 1948 and the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990.

He added that the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 gives local authorities the powers to provide or arrange care services for anyone in urgent need. Were a care home to fail, no resident-whether publicly or self-funded-would be left homeless or without care. As commissioners and providers of care services, local authorities have a responsibility to manage the care sector in their areas in order to ensure there is a suitable range of provision available to meet local need.

He reminded Mr Smith that social care is a devolved matter; different oversight and regulatory mechanisms are in place across the United Kingdom. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has responsibility for the regulation of adult social care in England. As such, it contributes to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of people who use social care services. All providers of regulated activities in England must be registered with the CQC and meet the registration requirements, which are set out in regulations made under the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

He concluded that the regulations included a requirement to take all reasonable steps to carry on the regulated activity in such a manner as to ensure the financial viability of the carrying on of that activity. This requirement does not apply to local authorities or NHS bodies. The CQC can take enforcement action, including cancellation of registration, if the registration requirements are not met. In October 2011, the Department published a discussion paper, "Oversight of the Social Care Market", which outlined the issues facing the social care market and possible options for strengthening oversight of the largest and most complex providers. The Government had considered the responses to the consultation paper and intend to address the issue of market oversight in the forthcoming White Paper on Care and Support.

Hazel Blears MP received a reply from the Minister to her question on what assessment had been made of the effect of not increasing the means test capital limit for residential care on (a) businesses, (b) charities and (c) voluntary bodies in the sector. She had also asked what savings have accrued from maintaining the means test capital limit for residential care at the same level since 2010. Paul Burstow said that the Department had not made an assessment of the effect of not increasing the means test capital limit for residential care on businesses, charities and voluntary bodies in the sector. The decision in the spending review 2010 not to increase capital limits was taken in order to help local authorities, at a time of financial stringency, to maintain the level of services they provide. The spending review 2010 covers Government spending up to April 2015. However, the capital limits were being kept under review in order to monitor the impact of them.

Helen Goodman MP quizzed the Cabinet office seeking information on the estimate that had been made of the change in income of the voluntary and charitable sector in each region of (a) decisions in Budget 2012 and (b) spending cuts in (i) 2010, (ii) 2011 and (iii) 2012. A reply is expected after recess.

Tuesday 22 May

Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk MP urged volunteers from all over the country to speak out against uncaring officialdom - but also to give credit where credit is due if someone has been really helpful. The Government is urging anyone involved in volunteering - from a jumble sale, to organising a Jubilee party, to a three-peaks challenge - can feed in their experiences, good and bad, of dealing with local authorities and other regulators as part of the Focus on Enforcement campaign.

"Volunteers are the unsung heroes of communities in this country. But dealing with the way rules are enforced can sometimes be more of a problem than the red tape itself - no one volunteers to be a bureaucrat. So, whether it's an inspection by someone who won't listen or having to fill in the same form twice - we want to hear about it. I urge you to go to the Focus on Enforcement website and let us know your views so that we can take action. We know there are good regulators out there, so we also want you to tell us on the website about the heroes - people who give really good guidance and help your event to happen well and safely."

Mark Prisk MP
Caroline Nokes MP had asked Health Ministers who will (a) fund and (b) have responsibility for commissioning (i) local and (ii) national enhanced services following the implementation of NHS reforms. Simon Burns MP replied saying that the NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for funding and commissioning all future primary medical services, including any nationally specified enhanced services under the general practitioner contract arrangements.

He added that the Government also proposes to transfer the funding attached to current local enhanced services to clinical commissioning groups. Clinical commissioning groups will be able to use their commissioning budgets to fund commissioning of community-based services, for which the provider might be a general practice where the service is outside the scope of the general practitioner contract and where the award of such contracts have been undertaken in line with safeguards to protect against any potential conflicts of interests.

Meanwhile in the House of Lords Baroness Finlay of Llandaff tabled an Oral Questions to ask the Government how they plan to implement the recommendations in the report Delivering Dignity A reply in expected on 18 June.

Lord Patel of Bradford had asked the Government whether clinical commissioning groups will be subject to specific duties under the Equality Act 2010. Earl Howe in replying confirmed that Clinical commissioning groups, as public sector organisations, will be subject to the specific duties of the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010.

Baroness Greengross has asked the Government what assessment they have made of spending on adult social care services by local authorities in the last year. A reply is due on 7 June.

Wednesday 23 May

Simon Burns MP replied to MP David Evennett’s question over how many people over the age of 60 received a free eye test. The published table showed the number of NHS sight tests for persons aged 60 and over in England in 1999/2000 was 3.3m and had risen to 5.3m in 2010/11.

Dr Phillip Lee asked what steps the Government is taking to reduce the administrative burdens of volunteering. An answer is due on11 June.

Thursday 24 May

The Prime Minister as part of Dementia Awareness Week, called on up to 30,000 National Citizen Service young volunteers to help people with dementia by giving their time in care homes around the UK. The scheme forms part of a national challenge aimed at raising awareness and understanding of dementia, improving the lives and experiences of people living with dementia and helping make communities more inclusive.

Anne McIntosh MP asked what representations the Government had received on delivering health and social care in the community. Mark Spencer MP asked what steps the Government was taking to reduce the administrative and regulatory burdens that affect the number of people who volunteer. Both questions are due for answer during Oral questions on 13th June.

Jim Cunningham MP received an answer from Health Ministers about the assessment their Department had made of the effect of changes to local government budgets on the cost of placing each patient into care provided by an independent care provider. Paul Burstow responded by saying that the commissioning of adult social care services is devolved to local authorities, and it is for each local authority to negotiate and agree the fees paid to individual providers, reflecting local circumstances. In setting these fee levels, local authorities should have due regard to the actual costs of providing care. He added that the Department does not set or recommend rates at which local authorities contract with providers of care, and has therefore made no assessment of the cost of placing individual care users with independent providers.

In the most recent spending review, the Government had recognised the pressures on the adult social care system within a challenging settlement for local government, and took the decision to prioritise adult social care by allocating an additional £7.2 billion to the system over the four years to 2014-15 to support local authorities in delivering social care. When combined with a rigorous local authority focus on efficiency, this additional £7.2 billion means that there is funding available to protect people's access to care and deliver new approaches to improve quality and outcomes.

Chris Skidmore MP asked the Secretary of State for Health how many patients received treatment from the NHS for dementia in each year since 1997. Paul Burstow responded saying that data on out-patient activity for dementia are not routinely collected. However, in September 2011, the NHS Information Centre published the results of an audit of memory services for dementia which showed that 951 people per primary care trust on average accessed memory services in 2010-11, compared to 605 in 2008-09. In-patient admissions for dementia were 29,925 in 1997/98 but had fallen to 17,275 in 2010/11.

Jon Trickett MP asked the Cabinet Office what guidance had been issued to local authorities on how to support voluntary and charitable organisations applying for local authority funding. An answer is due on 11 June.

A number of debates were announced as part of upcoming business and these will be covered in future blogs.

In the Commons on 11 June Ben Bradshaw MP will lead an Adjournment debate on Dementia services in the South West.

Also on 11 June in the Lords Baroness Wheeler will ask the Government what is the timetable for the draft bill to modernise adult care and support in England announced in the Queen’s Speech and to what extent the proposals in the bill follow the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission.

On 21 June Baroness Scott of Needham Market will move that the House takes note of the role of the voluntary sector and social enterprise.

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