Securing funding for Cornwall’s schools

Last week I welcomed two government announcements confirming funding to create extra school places in Cornwall.

Firstly, councils will receive an extra £50million to create around 740 additional school places and state-of-the-art facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), giving families more choice and helping to meet increasing demand.  Cornwall will be given more than £2.3million in the three years from 2018 to 2021, after an uplift of £444,957 to its initial allocation of just over £1.9million.

Secondly, councils will receive £680million in basic need funding to create 40,000 more good school places in primary and secondary schools by September 2021.  Cornwall will be given more than £27million in the three years from 2018 to 2021, at an average of over £9million a year. That compares with an average of just over £5.5million a year in the seven years from 2011 to 2018.

This funding will have a positive impact so that every child in Cornwall – regardless of their needs, background or circumstances – has access to a good school place to help them get the best possible start in life and achieve their full potential, whatever challenges they may face.

The funding boost comes as new analysis shows 91% of school places created in 2016/17 were in schools rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted. Improving education attainment has contributed to the fact that youth unemployment has fallen, on average, by over 140 young people every day since 2010.

I am working hard in Parliament making the case for more investment into the schools and post 16 education budgets because I appreciate that the budgets for our local schools are not growing at the same pace as the increased costs in delivering the high quality education our local young people experience.  Thanks to the hard work of our school leaders and teachers more children and young people are receiving a good or outstanding education compared to 2010.

Cornwall Council has developed a Local Plan that is about building more homes and flats to buy and rent that local people can genuinely afford and developing essential local infrastructure too. This new extra funding will ensure that there are more good school places for our growing community.

For some time I have been encouraging Cornwall Council to work with local people to shape and build local sustainable communities.

I am pleased that Cornwall Council, Truro City Council, Truro Chamber of Commerce, Truro BID and Kenwyn Parish Council are working together and have appointed Lavigne Lonsdale and PBWC to help generate ideas to support “a thriving Truro” both now and in the longer term. This work builds on the success of the Truro & Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan and considers all aspects of life in and around Truro from our natural environment to education, health and wellbeing, employment, food and energy, homes and enterprise. Do have your say on the future of this great place and visit: https://lovetruro.net before the consultation closes at the end of June.

First published in the West Briton 14/06/18

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Improving Local Mental Health Services

Last October, in this column, I asked local organisations to work together and consider applying to the new Beyond Places of Safety Fund.

Applications had just been opened for a new £15 million fund to improve support for people who experience a range of mental health conditions that put them at risk of an acute mental health crisis.

The Beyond Places of Safety fund is the successor to the original Places of Safety programme which was established, alongside the Crisis Care Concordat, to confront one of the quiet scandals within mental health system – namely the thousands of people left in a police cell following a detention under the Mental Health Act.

The new funding for the Places of Safety Programme, coupled with the ingenuity and partnerships forged between statutory and voluntary organisations under local Crisis Care agreements, has seen the number detained in police custody following a mental health crisis drop by over 80% over the last five years. New regulations have also come into effect to ensure that police custody is only used in exceptional circumstances under careful medical and police supervision. No young person can be held in custody.

Having spent time with Cornwall Resus and Street Pastors in our local towns on a Saturday night, as well as shadowing staff at A&E at Treliske, I am aware of the challenges that our front line public service professionals are facing with people in crisis.

I listened carefully to their opinions which informed my actions when I was Chair of the National Crisis Concordat, a role I held when I was the Home Office Minister responsible for vulnerable people, domestic violence, drug and alcohol strategy, amongst other matters. I have seen at first hand the difference that funding common sense innovations – driven by passionate third sector organisations, working in partnership with the NHS – are making to how people are treated when they become acutely unwell.

I am delighted that Cornwall is benefitting from the new Beyond Places of Safety Fund.  £1.5 million will be invested in the new hub at Treliske which will enable partners, including Addaction, to ensure that local people have the wrapped around care they need.  Support that not only treats the symptoms but also tackles the root cause of their crisis which can include a wide range of issues from sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and substance misuse to homelessness. Treating the whole person rather than just their mental health crisis should lead to better outcomes for the people concerned as well as reducing demand for emergency care at Treliske.

There may be no magic bullet to stem the rising tide of mental ill health – but innovative community initiatives can make a make a real difference to keeping people safe.

Along with plans to train a million people in basic mental health first aid skills – the first country in the world to have this scale of ambition – we will continue to invest in NHS mental health services, training more professionals, and aiming to treat more people than ever before.

First published in the West Briton 31/05/18

Pushing for appropriate development in Falmouth

Since being elected I have worked hard to enable planning decisions to be made in Cornwall not Westminster. I believe that this is the best way to ensure that development meets the needs of local people. Too many young people growing up in Truro & Falmouth cannot afford to live here. Making sure people have a decent, really affordable home has always been a top priority for me.

The Coalition Government from 2010 – 2015 returned decisions about planning and homes from Westminster to Cornwall Council. I supported these plans to better enable local people to shape the future of our communities.

I have written before about my disappointment with the leadership of Cornwall Council who have persistently not used these powers for the benefit of local people. Cornwall Council was amongst the last planning authorities to agree a Local Plan, only submitting Cornwall’s housing allocations to the Planning Inspector in October.

Sadly, despite the hard work of many local people we still don’t have an agreed Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan.

So as a result of the delayed Cornwall Plan and the yet to be agreed Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan, we are left without a proper plan for the growth of our town. This is particularly worrying as Cornwall Council has supported lifting of the cap on the number of students in our universities while not addressing the pressure on local housing and services that inevitably follows.

There is no doubt that Falmouth is a great place to work, study and live. Together with the vast majority of residents, I have been concerned by the approval of a number of unpopular and unsuitable planning applications.

The impact of this is clearly being felt. I read the letter from the Planning Inspector who approved the application to build new student accommodation on the site of the The Ocean Bowl. He acknowledged the strength of local feeling against the development and drew attention to the lack of an effective reason not to grant permission. Cornwall Council should and could have done more to prevent Falmouth being in this situation.

I wrote to the Secretary of State to ask that he call in the planning applications at Ocean Bowl, Fish Strand Hill and the former Rosslyn Hotel site.

In his response the former Secretary of State pointed to the fact that Cornwall Council did not seek to challenge the Inspector’s decision, which meant that it was not expedient for him to revoke the approvals.

In light of this information and following the approval of a further appeal by a Planning Inspector on the Old Coachworks site, I wrote to Cornwall Council to ask that they challenge the decision. The Council said that they would not be opposing the decision in this instance but did acknowledge that the Council had been criticised “for continuing with an argument after an appeal decision had concluded that little weight could be given to emerging plans. This is a lesson that we must learn for our future decisions.”

It is my hope that Cornwall Council will now work urgently with local Councillors to ensure that future development better meets the town’s needs.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 30/05/18

Supporting Truro & Falmouth residents back into work

I am committed to making sure that families get the right support that they need to get on and improve their lives.  Universal Credit lies at the heart of this by helping those who can work into work, while caring for those who cannot.  And it is working because Universal Credit claimants are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

Universal Credit replaces the six main out-of-work benefits with one monthly payment.  It’s available to all single new jobseekers across the country and from yesterday it has opened up to families, couples and disabled people in Truro who make a new claim for a working-age benefit.  It will be available throughout Cornwall in the following weeks.

I understand how being unemployed or asking for help can be a worrying time.  That’s why I want reassure people in Truro about the support they can get under Universal Credit, and how our local Jobcentre work coaches are there to help.

Universal Credit is changing the culture of welfare support by mirroring the world of work.  It is paid in arrears as a monthly single payment directly into people’s accounts in the way that many people’s salaries are.  It gradually reduces the more someone earns; meaning people experience the financial gains of doing any paid employment, which frequently did not happen under the old system because of its perverse disincentives to taking up more work, like the 16-hour rule.

Universal Credit is a digitalised service, as one would expect today.  Claimants who are looking for work continue to get face-to-face support from their work coach at their local Jobcentre. But more than that, every claimant also has a case manager who helps with the day-to-day practicalities of their claim, and communicates through two-way conversations via an online Universal Credit journal, by text message, email, and over the telephone.

The majority of people are comfortable with managing their Universal Credit claim, but we understand that for some people it is a big change and they will need extra help.

For people who need support before their first payment, advance payments of 100% are available up front and are paid within five working days and on the first day if necessary. We also continue to pay people’s housing benefit for two weeks when they make a claim to Universal Credit. And arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords.

Our Jobcentre work coaches are there to provide support to help people move back into work, and any extra help people need with their Universal Credit claim.

First published in the West Briton 24/08/18

Universal Credit lies at heart of improving people’s lives

The employment rate in the South West is fantastic – at 79.3% it is well above the national rate of 75.6%. And behind those figures, there are people from all walks of
life, from Land’s End in Cornwall to Taunton in Somerset, working hard for themselves
and their families and contributing to the success of our country.

Universal Credit replaces the six main out-of-work benefits with one monthly payment. It lies at the heart of our reforms to help people improve their lives by prove their lives, by
helping people into work while caring for those that cannot.

It is available to all single new jobseekers across the country, and from today it will open up to families, couples and disabled people in Truro, St Austell, Bodmin and Newquay who make a new claim to a working-age benefit.

I understand how being unemployed or asking for help can be a worrying time. That’s  why I want reassure people in these areas about the support they can get under Universal Credit, and how our local Jobcentre Plus work coaches are there to help.

At its heart lies one very simple goal. Universal Credit is designed to help people improve their lives, and the lives of their families, through employment until they can be financially independent, while having the right care in place for those who cannot work.

Universal Credit is changing the culture of welfare support by mirroring the world
of work. It is paid in arrears as a monthly single payment directly into people’s accounts
as many people’s salaries are. It gradually reduces the more someone earns; meaning
people experience the financial gains of doing any paid employment, which frequently
did not happen under the old system because of its perverse disincentives to taking up more work, like the 16-hour rule.

Universal Credit is a digitalised service, as one would expect today. Claimants who
are looking for work continue to get face-to-face support from their work coach at their
local Jobcentre, But more than that, every claimant also has a case manager who helps
with the day-to-day practicalities of their claim, and communicates through two-way
conversations via an online Universal Credit journal, by text message and email, and
over the telephone too. The majority of people are comfortable managing their Universal
Credit claim, but we understand that for some people it is a big change.

For people who need support before their first payment, advance payments of 100% are available up front and are paid within five working days and on the first day if necessary. We also continue to pay people’s housing benefit for two weeks when they
make a claim to Universal Credit. And arrangements can be made to pay rent direct
to landlords.

Our Jobcentre work coaches are there to provide support to help people move back into work, and any extra help people need with their Universal Credit claim.

We are committed to making sure families in Cornwall and across the country
get the right support they need to get on and improve their lives. Universal Credit
lies at the heart of that by helping those that can into work, while caring for those
that cannot. And it is working with Universal Credit claimants moving into work
faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

First published in the Western Morning News 23/05/18

Rising Living Standards and Wellbeing

How does a country measure its success? The most reported measure of success is economic with gross domestic product (GDP) probably most often quoted. Of course ensuring people have the opportunity to reach their potential in their chosen occupation is important and this week’s good news of record levels of people from all backgrounds and ages in employment and growing wages is welcome. More of our children and young people are receiving a good education compared to 2010 and average life expectancy continues to rise. All these measure progress.

There is a growing recognition that how we are doing as a nation is at least as much about people’s well-being as it is about the country’s economic health.

In November 2010, David Cameron established the Measuring National Well-being (MNW) programme. The aim was to monitor and report “how the UK is doing” by producing accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation. Twice a year the independent Office for National Statistics report progress against a set of headline indicators covering areas of our lives including our health, natural environment, personal finances and crime.

The measures include both objective data (unemployment rate) and subjective data (satisfaction with job) to provide a more complete view of the nation’s progress than economic measures can do alone.

The latest update of the Measuring of National Well-being programme published in April provides a broadly positive picture of life in the UK, with most indicators either improving or staying the same over the short-term (one year) and long-term (five years). It shows the strengths and challenges of different age groups in society. These insights can help target services where they are most needed and can have the best impact.

This programme has led to significant positive changes in the development of policy, particularly the promotion of good mental health and a very welcome focus on understanding and treating mental ill health. We changed the law so that mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.

The fastest growing NHS spending is on mental health £11.86 billion last year, with further growth committed.  Spending by local GP NHS Commissioners on children and young people’s mental health services grew by £103 million between 2015/16 and 2016/17, up to £619 million. This is a 20 per cent increase year on year. I am pleased that our new residential children and young people’s mental health service in Bodmin is underway.

Last week, I visited Roseland Community College, an outstanding local school, and listened to children and staff who are participating in HeadStart Kernow. It’s a partnership between Cornwall Council, our local NHS, schools, voluntary sector organisations and the National Lottery. It aims to build resilience and mental wellbeing for children and young people and from what I heard is doing a good job. This vital prevention work matters to children now and in the future as the causes of mental ill health in adults often starts in childhood.

First published in the West Briton 17/05/18

In too many workplaces, mental health remains the last taboo – and this needs to change

Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Virginia Woolf. These are some of history’s greatest names, best-known for their genius and creativity. And rightfully so.

What many people might not know is that they battled with poor mental health at various points in their lives. The taboo of mental ill health kept these struggles from the history books.

I’m heartened to see that in my lifetime we are much more open and willing to talk about mental ill health, with Mental Health Awareness week an opportunity to turn up the volume on these conversations.

But in too many workplaces it remains the last taboo – and this needs to change.

There is a growing body of evidence that good work is good for our health and that being out of work can have a detrimental effect on our health and wellbeing.

The latest employment figures show that there are now 32.3 million people in work – including more than 3.5 million disabled people. There are opportunities for everyone to enjoy the benefits of employment if they are well enough to do so, including those with mental health conditions.

But if we are to feel those benefits, what is equally important is that our workplace provides an environment that supports good mental health.

The theme of this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week is stress. The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, affecting 526,000 workers.

Failure to address poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year – that’s a cost of between £1,205 and £1,560 per employee. This is something which cannot be ignored, and it’s essential that Government and businesses join forces to tackle this taboo.

Already, we’re taking innovative action across employment and health services to ensure support is joined up around people so they get the best possible chance to succeed in work.

We’re more than doubling the number of employment advisers working in the NHS 2019, enabling greater provision of integrated psychological treatment and employment support. And we’re at the forefront in testing different models to join up health and employment support in a range of healthcare settings, for example in GP surgeries and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services.

On top of this, our Access to Work scheme provides personalised support for people whose disability or health condition affects them in the workplace and can include assistive technology, interpreters and our Mental Health Support Service. This week we reached a milestone of helping 11,000 people. The support helps provide people with tailored employment support and has an extraordinary success rate with 93% of people who have used the service still in their jobs after six months. We’ve developed an enhanced mental health training programme for Jobcentre Plus work coaches too.

But there is more to do. We know that poor mental health affects people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. It doesn’t discriminate, and affects around one in four across their lifetime. That’s why this Government has put improving mental health at the heart of our plans to improve wellbeing, and that’s why we are working with employers to get the support right.

First published on Politics Home 17/05/18
https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/health-and-care/illnesstreatments/opinion/house-commons/95217/sarah-newton-mp-too-many