Claire Wright (Independent DCC councillor) asks unpaid carers in Devon to contact her

From Independent DCC Councillor Claire Wright’s Facebook page*

“I am chairing a scrutiny review into how unpaid carers in Devon are managing and would really like to hear from you if you are caring for a relative, spouse or friend.

It has taken quite a bit of pushing to get the review to take place. It was finally agreed at last September’s Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting… and then it has taken a while to get the first meeting set up.

To recap, I last raised the issue as a matter of concern at committee over a year ago after seeing the results of a local focus group which indicated that unpaid carers were feeling exhausted, short of money and stressed from a lack of respite care.

I am pleased to report that the plans for a review now seem to be progressing well and there is some survey work to be undertaken before face to face discussions can begin.

The first review meeting will take place in July (after a local carers survey has been analysed) and the plan is for members of the spotlight review to travel to local carers groups and hear firsthand how people are managing.

The review is scheduled to report back to the September Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, hopefully with some useful recommendations.
If you’d like to take part, I would love to hear from you in writing and/or in person.l

Please get in touch with me in the first instance by email at

Thank you!

“Our Council Funding Crisis Will Not Be Solved By A Small Pot To Fix Short-Term Problems”

When people voted to leave the European Union in 2016 it expressed a clear demand for change. Many felt that the places where they lived had been locked out and left behind by prosperity while they could not see opportunities for them and their families to achieve a better life.

On Monday, the government announced a new £1.6billion Stronger Towns Fund to be spread over seven years – but the lukewarm response has reflected the urgency for much more serious and sustained investment in all the communities that need it. There needs to be investment that people can see and feel, and prosperity that they feel they are a part of.

The announcement reflects the needs of many of our towns, but we need to see far greater ambition in terms of boosting job prospects and living standards throughout the UK. We need a series of significant investments as part of a long-term plan to transform prospects and help the four million people in working poverty in the UK.

The Government’s commitment to deliver on its Shared Prosperity Fund – a manifesto pledge to replace the EU structural funds for economically disadvantaged places – has far more potential. Fully implemented, it could make a much more significant difference to people in places that have been locked out of prosperity. EU Structural Funds are currently worth £2.4billion a year in EU and national match funding.

But we’ve been waiting over a year for the consultation to be published on what the Shared Prosperity Fund should look like, let alone seen any progress on delivering for the places that need it. It’s not just towns that are struggling, rural areas are too and some of the lowest employment and pay is found in cities such as Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

“I’ve done labouring and warehouse work, manual labour most of my life … work with bricklayers, joiners, different trades. Warehouses, packing … I’d prefer to … have a decent wage. I’ve never had secure employment. The longest I’ve worked is about three months max. There have been big stretches of unemployment, like years – two years.”

At JRF we root our work in the experiences of people in poverty, and as this man describes too often work provides an income but fails to deliver the security that enables people to build a better life. In parts of the UK this is sometimes all that is effectively on offer. While the country overall has a great story to tell on employment some people are locked out of this success because of where they live, with some places reporting employment rates over ten percentage points behind the average.

The Government has emphasised that both the Stronger Towns Fund and SPF will focus on closing productivity gaps – but this must be done in a way that delivers inclusive growth. That means growing the economy and creating jobs for those locked out of the labour market, making sure people have skills to get on at work, and improving firm performance in low pay sectors like hospitality and retail.

HuffPost’s joint investigation with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism into local authority selloffs, especially those being used to fund redundancies and cuts, demonstrates how these economic challenges can be compounded, leaving places with a sense of decline. Where towns, cities and rural areas lose jobs, services and their sense of purpose, people can be swept into poverty of every kind.

Living without secure employment means living without the ability to save or plan – one of the burning injustices which the Prime Minister pledged to tackle on taking office. It is absolutely right that we look at how to help communities around the country – whether it is Wigan, Bassetlaw or Doncaster. But the way forward must solve deeper problems than the parliamentary conundrum which currently faces the Prime Minister.

It is essential that the pledged funding via the Shared Prosperity Fund is based on need, as the communities secretary James Brokenshire pledged the new Stronger Towns Fund would be. Funding needs to recognise the real experience of economic challenges facing towns and cities across the UK, as highlighted in the HuffPost investigation.

People around the UK need to know how this wrong is going to be righted through the Brexit process and beyond. Implementing the Shared Prosperity Fund needs to be the priority for beginning to shape a new deal.

If the Government is serious about transforming towns, and anywhere else people are not enjoying the opportunities or living standards prosperity brings, it needs to bring serious money to the table. A small pot to fix short-term problems is not ambitious enough and may fail to solve the conundrums of either local prosperity or parliamentary arithmetic.

Campbell Robb is the chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Rural communities and elderly will be hard-hit by cashless society

As banks and cash machines are being closed in rural areas, and where broadband for internet banking may be poor, people will struggle:

Ambulances not reaching rural areas quickly enough

The article includes a postcode checker to show the situation where you live.

“Critically injured patients in rural areas are at risk due to the time it takes the ambulance service to reach them, a BBC investigation has found.
Some rural communities wait more than 20 minutes on average for 999 crews or trained members of the community to reach life-threatening cases such as cardiac arrests and stab victims.

A response should come in six to eight minutes, depending on where you live.
Experts said delays could make the difference between life and death.
This was particularly the case for cardiac arrests where “every second counts”, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said. …”