Monday, 30 January 2012


Sometimes I get tired of campaigning.  If I'm not defending freedom of speech on the internet, reading about massacres in Syria, or retweeting information about reforms of the NHS or of the benefits system, I'm leading a campaign for my trade union about day service cuts in Norfolk.  Add to this an ever present group of friends with varying degrees of personal problems, a girlfriend with the patience of a saint and dare I add, a full-time job to boot, it's no wonder that I rarely get a chance to stop and catch my breath.

It's hard sometimes to really judge what impact campaigning has on the world at large. All the blogs in the world won't stop innocents being shot down by military forces, or stop governments from denying medical care to civilians in need. All you can do is raise your voice, time and time again, tell people what is going on and hope that the collective rumpus applies enough pressure to make decision makers think again.

On the international side of things, the looming showdown between the US and Iran over the future of the latter country's nuclear program is a chilling one indeed, and one only has to read about the promises coming from the Republican side of the US presidential candidacy process to reflect that we should be glad that economically, things are improving in America, which should make things a little easier for Barack Obama this autumn.

The Eurozone splutters on, like a balloon sagging as the monetary crisis slowly squeezes the remaining air out of it. TV news stories about the Euro look increasingly like sketches of the Three Stooges, with Nicolas Sarzoky ducking and shrugging as David Cameron pokes Andrea Merkel in the eye. The only successful business left in the Eurozone these days seems to involve hosting summits. It's no real wonder that Scotland want independence from the UK. Alex Salmond might get a seat of his own at these events then.

In these increasingly uncertain times, it's good to be able to campaign on local issues as you're much more likely to be able to generate positive outcomes for all parties.

The grant that Norfolk receives from central government has meant that the cuts we have already seen at the County Council will continue into another year. The County Council is hoping to save an amount in excess of £3m this year in day services for the elderly and physically disabled, and with the increasing reliance upon personal budgets to fund care packages, there is a real danger that our day centres, valuable community resources, could be forced to close. Our campaign is encouraging Councillors and local MPs to oppose the cuts, and advising those service users who may be affected to consider using their personal budgets to contribute towards shared day services - which would be a positive outcome, given that such centres are already up and running!

I'll be chairing a closed media event between politicians, community representatives and members of the media at the Forum next Friday lunchtime and I'm really looking forward to hearing what opposition politicians will have to say to service users who could see the services they rely on for care and socialisation forced to close. We will also be holding a lobby of Norfolk County Council's cabinet outside County Hall on Monday 13th February from 8:30am, and we would like as many people as possible to be there, so please come along!

We have already had initial successes with our campaign, and we need your help to keep day centres open and available to all.

We are encouraging as many people as possible to write letters to their councillors and MPs. The text below is a suggested wording that you can use.

Norfolk County Council has over 20 Day Centres across the County.  These provide a vital service to people with learning difficulties and the elderly as well as giving a much needed break for those who care for them in their homes.  On 13 February the Council will set its budget, which proposes to cut over £3.5m from Day Centres.  I strongly fear these proposed cuts will lead to closures of the Centres.  Please do all you can to stop this from happening.

Day Centres are a valuable asset because:

* They provide a social community for people who could otherwise feel isolated in their own homes;

* They ensure care professionals have regular contact with service users, acting as a valuable care prevention measure;

* Many service users live with carers, lots of whom are elderly.  Attending a day centre gives carers much needed respite.

Closing or cutting back on Day Centre provision risks:

* Vulnerable people being isolated in their own homes;

* Preventative care not being undertaken. This could lead to later medical analysis which is worse for the patient and more costly as it could lead to an increase in hospital admissions;

* Some carers feeling they can no longer cope with caring for the person. This then leads to the service user ending up in more costly residential care and thus losing the regular contact with people who love them.

I understand the County Council have no detailed strategy on how they will save £3.5million.  This leads to the reasonable conclusion that such significant savings can only be made by closures.

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