Census reveals consequences  of Tory “Build, build, build” for East Devon 

Between 2011 and 2021 East Devon grew at twice the national rate: 13.8 percent compared to 6.6 percent. Much faster than the rest of Devon.

John Hart writes about providing funding and support for the growing proportion of “Oldies” in the county and appeals to the county’s army of (ageing) volunteers. 

Echos his response to flooding, remember John Hart in February 2020? – Owl

“Council Leader, John Hart’s solution, however, is to encourage a modern day dad’s army of individuals, villages and Parish Councils, where they care, to do more for themselves. Self-help, he said, is going to be the order of the day.” 

Providing funding and support for Devon’s older residents

John Hart, leader of Devon County Council www.sidmouthherald.co.uk

Our population in Devon is growing at a faster rate than nationally, according to the latest figures from the 2021 census. In the 10 years from the last census in 2011, the population of England grew by 6.6 per cent while in the South West the increase was 7.8 per cent.

Locally, East Devon had the second largest growth in population in the South West after Tewkesbury at 13.8 per cent. Torridge was 6.7 per cent while North Devon was 5.3 per cent.

The latest figures show there are nearly 815,000 people living in Devon of whom nearly 268,000 – almost a third – are over 60. And that includes me.

Now the great majority of us pensioners are hopefully living healthy and happy lives and still making a real contribution to our communities. But there’s no doubt that as we get older we need more support from our health and care services.

That’s why in this year’s Devon County Council budget we are proposing an 8.8 per cent increase in our spending on adult social care. We are obviously well aware that at a time of double-digit inflation that may not cover all the extra demands that are made on us. People are living longer and are coming to us with more complex disabilities and needing more care for longer.

But clearly there is a limit to how much extra we can ask council taxpayers to stump up. So it’s vital that we get the very best value for every pound we spend and that we also make savings in our budget where that is achievable. I assure you it will be our intention to target the funding we do have to the most vulnerable people to ensure that they are living well and ageing well. We want to embrace new technological advances so people have the equipment they need to continue living in their own homes. We want more extra care housing where people have the support they need to remain in their own communities instead of having to go into care.

One of the real challenges we face is recruiting enough staff to look after the people who come to us for help. Unfortunately people can earn more money in a supermarket in a job which is perhaps less demanding than caring for a frail older person with dementia. So it’s important that they are properly rewarded. However, the latest increase in the national living wage will cost the council about £9 million this year – roughly the equivalent of a two per cent increase in council tax.

That’s where this county’s army of volunteers can help. Devon has a thriving voluntary and community sector and, as a county council, we are keen to support individual groups where we can as well as making use of their services for our clients.

We try to provide seed funding and support so, as well as our paid carers, there is a sound infrastructure of voluntary and community support available. For example we’ve helped people set up dementia cafes in their local communities and supported them with training and in applying for grants from a range of funders so they can be self-sustaining. But it is important that we make the best possible use of the voluntary and community sector and only refer people to them who are suitable for the help they provide. That needs better communication and for us to ensure they feel part of the team that is doing its very best for our residents.