Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Investing in libraries and social care

Me with the brilliant Gordon Flugell, our first client!
I was really pleased to go to Halwhistle to the launch of one of our five pilot Social Care and Information points across the county. The five are in Haltwhistle, Cramlington, Morpeth, Amble and Berwick.


In Haltwhistle it is in the library. Since taking over as portfolio holder with responsibility for libraries in May, I've been very keen to push the concept that libraries should become more and more the hub of the communities and we should use our considerable network of libraries to let residents access a wide range of council services. It is part of making the library service resilient and strong despite changes in peoples needs. It's a lot better than the knee jerk closure of libraries by some local authorities. A few years ago the council took the painful decision to close council run day care centres, which were out of date and  expensive. We were able to save money and give a much expanded range of options to residents.


The new (ish) personal budgets give residents a much wider choice of options but sometimes vulnerable people need help using them. That's why we have worked with Northumbria Foundation Trust to employ a network of support planners to help people. It was a pleasure to talk to the support planner for the West of Northumberland, Kay Williams. I last spoke to her when she worked at the old council run day care centre in Prudhoe, Oaklands. So it was great to see she has got employment helping people use the new system. She is available to residents from Ponteland to the Cumbrian border. If people want to use a support planner ring  01670 536 400 for help.


Gordon, the first person to drop in, had suffered from a number of strokes and now he needs a bit of support. He uses his personal budget to go to a regular day club. He really appreciates the face to face contact as opposed to using the phone to get help.


Kay will be in Haltwhistle library on Monday and Thursdays for people to drop in but Pat and the other librarians are trained to know the basics to help residents and there is information on other support informations such as Carers Northumberland and the CAB. We will be seeing if this helps get people involved after 6 months of running it and if it does we will look to roll it out to other centres. 

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