Campaigning for affordable local housing

While Parliament is prorogued my work continues.  I have had meetings with a number of ministers on important matters.

It is essential that we redevelop existing buildings into high quality and genuinely affordable homes for local people, as well as building new homes for them. I very much support the reuse of land already developed rather than farmland.

We should have a range of housing choices to meet local peoples’ needs, from social homes to rent, to opportunities for local people to build their own homes as well as homes with support for people with long term health conditions and disabilities.

As regular readers will recall, I was instrumental in securing the £300m Community Housing Fund (CHF) that was announced in the 2016 Spring Budget to transform the community led housing sector and lead to the delivery of nearly 10,000 additional homes across the country by 2021. Money was allocated to 148 local authorities, roughly in proportion to the number of second homes and affordability issues.

Cornwall is a pioneering area for community led housing and it is a broad movement of Community Land Trusts (CLTs), Co-ops, co-housing communities and community anchors. Unlike traditional housebuilding approaches, they offer more than just resident involvement. They give local people the tools to build and renovate, manage and control the homes their community needs.

The Community Housing Fund is due to close in March 2020.  Likewise, bidding for the Homes England Fund will close in December 2019, just 18 months after it opened. Whilst interest is high and more than 16,600 homes are in the pipeline, very few groups have been able to submit capital bids in that short period and the pending deadline is deterring interest. It is essential that the Fund is extended so that those homes can be delivered.

I met the Housing Minister to make the case for her to use the budget increase delivered to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the recent Spending Round to extend the CHF.

For homes to be genuinely affordable they need to be affordable to heat as well as to buy or rent. I pressed the Minister to review building regulations to ensure all new homes are net zero carbon. Cornwall Council could make this a planning condition now but, as they are not doing so, changing regulations would ensure that this happens. Enabling people to live in well insulated, energy efficient homes is not only essential for good health and wellbeing but it makes a significant contribution to tackling climate change too.

In Truro, for many years now, I have asked Cornwall Council to enable ‘key worker’ housing for nurses, care assistants and other vitally important staff at Treliske who have modest wages and can’t afford Truro prices. This would help to attract and retain the staff that we need to deliver the health and care services that we all depend upon. I am pleased to report that this idea is now being pursued by Cornwall Council and already has the support of Truro and Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan team.

First published in the West Briton 18/09/19

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Welcoming investment in Cornwall’s voluntary services

This week some of Cornwall’s voluntary sector organisations, including Job Centre Plus, have been given a cash boost to roll out more of their innovative work. 

More young people across Cornwall will benefit from new mental health support including counselling, mentoring and arts programmes in their communities. This will be backed by a multi-million pound government investment this year. 

As part of the government’s commitment to transforming mental health care – backed by an extra £2.3 billion a year through the NHS Long Term Plan – £3.3 million was announced for 23 local community projects across England, with Young People Cornwall receiving £65,243. 

Young People Cornwall will expand their ‘Hear Our Voice’ project, set up in 1997, which provides children and young people (CYP) aged 11-25 experiencing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing with access to support through a range of interventions in non-clinical, school & community settings. Their expansion will employ two additional Well-being Practitioners (WP) who will be able to work with children and young people aged 8-10 years, supporting them at an earlier stage, before emerging mental health issues escalate or reach a point where statutory services must intervene. 

Earlier this year the government pledged to overhaul society’s approach to mental illness through better access to education, training and support. This included a commitment to train all teachers to spot the signs of mental illness in children. 

The funding will come from the Health and Wellbeing Fund, part of a programme of government investment in the voluntary sector. 

Mental health services are being transformed through the NHS Long Term Plan so that 345,000 more children and young people have access to mental health support by 2024, including via mental health support teams in and around schools. This will significantly improve early intervention and prevention. 

We know children and young people face many pressures at home and in their social and academic lives. Giving them easily accessible mental health support, providing them with the tools to manage their own mental health at an early age can help them thrive later in life. 

It’s only right that children and young people are able to access mental health support, not only through the NHS, but in the heart of their communities, schools and homes where they spend the majority of their time. 

A project pioneered by work coaches in Job Centres across Cornwall will have access to £100,000 more funding to continue referring people with mental health conditions to specialist one to one support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment. Some people – for whatever reason – don’t want to be assessed in a clinical setting. 

The results of the pilot so far prove without a doubt that this approach works, with people supported by their work coaches and specialist support before their mental health spirals downwards. 

It’s good to see more local people receiving support to enable them to manage their mental health and get their lives back on track. 

First published in the West Briton 22/08/19

Welcoming New Breast Cancer Clinic at the Mermaid Centre

From Monday, GPs will be able to refer patients to a new breast cancer clinic at the Mermaid Centre at Treliske Hospital. 

Clinicians at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) and NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (KCCG) worked together to launch the new clinic for anyone with a suspected cancer who needs to be seen and assessed. 

This latest modernisation initiative illustrates the continued aim for maintaining excellence through innovation, collaboration and adaptation to the changing needs of the community. 

The Mermaid Centre, which is recognised as a gold standard service, has been based at the Truro hospital for more than 20 years, and approximately 17,000 men and women are seen every year. Largely as a result of effective public health campaigns the numbers of people referred to the service are growing each month. 

Clinical leaders at Treliske say that these small changes have been designed to meet the recommended and safe best practice nationally and that they are vital for ensuring people receive the service they expect and need from the breast cancer service. 

I am sure that all readers of this column will have a friend or family member affected by breast cancer. My mother sadly died of breast cancer in her early fifties at a time when there were virtually no breast cancer services in Cornwall and patients had to travel to Plymouth. Since then survival rates have steadily and significantly improved. The services now provided are amongst the best in the country and I am pleased that clinicians say that more patients will be seen more quickly. Anyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer will begin treatment within 31 days of their diagnosis, and within 62 days of their original referral to the service. 

Ensuring that our NHS has the resources needed to provide excellent and safe care to local people remains my top priority and I am pleased that funding continues to rise each year. 

Mental health is just as important as physical health and is often interrelated so I am pleased that our local commissioners of services, the KCCG are spending more of the increasing money they are given on improving access to local services, more than the national average. 

We know that at the moment demand for some services outstrips supply. I understand that training new staff takes time and I am pleased that later this month a Mental Health Strategy for Cornwall will be launched. Healthwatch Cornwall is the independent and publicly funded body that is the voice of the patient and will be promoting public involvement with the strategy, so do look out for ways in which you can be involved.  

I have met with the KCCG and asked them to take a life course approach to promoting good mental health. From the birth of a child, through the stages of education into the workplace and towards the end of life. Partnership working will be key to improving wellbeing and health outcomes. 

First published in the West Briton 09/05/19

Supporting local public services

Happy Easter!

You would be forgiven for thinking that MPs are exclusively, focussed on Brexit. Important though that is, so are all the other priorities of my constituents. Supporting our vital public services is a top priority for many local people.

Thanks to significant investment and the dedicated work of our NHS leaders and professionals, local health services are improving. I was instrumental in making the case for changes in the formula used by NHS England to allocate funding for our local services. Past and recent changes better reflect the needs of our community and the costs of delivery. Every year our NHS funding has increased and will do for the next four years. There is more to do but it is good to see improvements for patients noted by the regulator and the hospital inspectors of the Care Quality Commission.

I work closely with our local NHS leaders, securing Cornwall’s fair share of funding and supporting their development of new services. This year we will see the publication and public consultation of the Mental Health Strategy for Cornwall. Along with a significant increase in mental health services for people of all ages. The increased use of social prescribing by more Cornish MPs is making a really positive difference too.

I believe that the interventions of NHS England is helping Treliske turn a corner and significantly improve patient safety and timelines in accessing services is. Treliske has always been highly rated for the quality of care provided by staff to patients.

I have been working with our Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Ms Alison Hernandez, to raise concerns regarding community policing. I am concerned that we simply don’t have enough visible policing in our community. So I am pleased that my concerns were listened to and our Police will receive more funding. The number of Police Officers will be increasing to 3,015 by 2019/20, an overall increase of 115. They will continue with our team of 200 existing PCSOs.

The focus of this investment to date includes a significant increase in the capacity on roads policing and road safety as well as an increase in the number of armed response officers across Devon and Cornwall.

Road safety is one of the major issues raised by the public across our communities, last year we saw over 800 people killed or seriously injured in road accidents across our two counties. Through the Police’s new road safety strategy they are increasing the number of officers focused on roads policing and road safety by 24. This includes an additional 15 police constables, a sergeant and an inspector in the specialist roads policing unit and a dedicated proactive enforcement and prevention team ‘No Excuse’ targeting driver behaviour and the Fatal 5 causes of accidents – speed, fatigue, drink/drug driving, not wearing seatbelts and distractions like using mobile phones while driving. Many of these officers are already in place – the new No Excuse Team launched earlier this year.

In addition to more officers, there has been investment in the roll out of Body Worn Video (BWV) across all of our police officers in order to better protect officers and victims, catch criminals and provide transparency to the public.

While I believe it is essential to have visible community policing, especially for crime prevention, I understand that crime has changed and now most crime is invisible, perpetrated at home and often online. Fraud and crimes involving sexual harm, violence and abuse occur more than the ‘traditional’ crimes of theft.

As crime changes so does the police response and in addition to funding local policing there continues to be increased investment into our regional and national crime specialist agencies, protecting people from the serious and organised criminals who trade in so much human suffering from scams, drug dealing and child sexual exploitation to human trafficking and modern slavery.

I am proud of the new crimes that this government have created, along with stiff sentences and support for victims. Keeping people safe is the first responsibility of any government and I will continue to do all I can ensure that the Police have the resources and powers they need to prevent crime and keep us safe.

A key theme of my work since 2010, has been enabling our much valued public services to work more effectively together and with other organisations in our community. This is particularly important when supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities.

A good example, is this work that our local Police are doing in Falmouth with St Petrocs, Addaction, the NHS, our local councils, businesses, church and voluntary groups to support people who are misusing substances, with mental health problems who are spending much of their time in the town centre and sometimes sleeping rough.

The government has given considerable extra money to Cornwall Council to eradicate rough sleeping. There has been significant progress here in helping individuals to get back on their feet and on with their lives. Much more needs to be done and close partnership is the key to success.

Just like you, I don’t want to see people sleeping rough and living without hope. I will continue to do everything I can to support all those people who are working so tirelessly to improve people’s lives here.

First published in the Falmouth Wave May edition

Investing in our public services

We all depend on our much-valued public services and it’s been good to catch up with local leaders.

Thanks to the dedicated work of our NHS professionals, local health services are improving. Cornwall is also receiving more funding than in the past. Working with our local NHS, I made the case for changes in the formula used by NHS England to allocate funding for our local services. Past and recent changes better reflect the needs of our community and the costs of delivery.

Our NHS funding will continue to increase. There is more to do but it is good to see improvements for patients noted by the regulator and the hospital inspectors of the Care Quality Commission.

The interventions of NHS England are also helping Treliske turn a corner and significantly improve patient safety and timelines in accessing services. Treliske has always been highly rated for the quality of care provided by staff.

This year we will see the publication and public consultation of the Mental Health Strategy for Cornwall. Along with a significant increase in spending on mental health services for people of all ages. With the assistance of dedicated government and parish council funding, there is more GP social prescribing too.

I have been working with our Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Alison Hernandez, to raise my concerns that we don’t have enough visible policing in our community. So I am pleased our Police this year will receive more resources. The number of Police Officers will be increasing to 3,015 by 2019/20, an overall increase of 115. They will continue with our team of 200 existing PCSOs.

The focus of this investment to date includes a significant increase in the capacity on roads policing and road safety as well as an increase in the number of armed response officers across Devon and Cornwall.

Road safety is one of the major issues raised by the public across our communities, last year we saw over 800 people killed or seriously injured in road accidents across the two counties. Through the Police’s new road safety strategy they are increasing the number of officers focused on roads policing and road safety by 24. A new ‘No Excuse’ prevention team will be targeting driver behaviour and the Fatal 5 causes of accidents – speed, fatigue, drink/drug driving, not wearing seatbelts and distractions like using mobile phones while driving.

While I believe it is essential to have visible community policing, I understand that crime has changed and now most crime is invisible, perpetrated at home and often online. Fraud and crimes involving sexual harm, violence and abuse occur more than the more ‘traditional’ crimes.

As crime changes so does the police response and in addition to funding local policing there continues to be increased investment into our regional and national crime specialist agencies, protecting people from the serious and organised criminals who trade in so much human suffering from scams, drug dealing and child sexual exploitation to human trafficking and modern slavery.

First published in the West Briton 18/04/19

My campaign to help parents spot serious illnesses in children

I want to enable every new parent to receive high quality training so that they are equipped to identify serious illness in their child and take appropriate action. This will build on the work that we have done to reduce avoidable deaths and injury from Sepsis. The Sepsis Trust continue to do excellent work, with Sepsis awareness being spread to our local ambulance service and into our nursery and primary school workforce. Now is the time to properly empower parents to spot the signs of not only Sepsis but other serious illness.  

Child and adolescent health in the UK has improved dramatically over the past 30 years. Despite this in 2017 just under 3,000 babies died before their first birthday and 1,707 children and young people died between the ages of one and nineteen. 

Recent estimates from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health suggest that 21% of child deaths involved ‘modifiable factors’ – something could possibly have been done to prevent death. 

They conclude that giving children and families the tools they need is critical. We should prioritise prevention and equip them with the knowledge and skill that enable them to better protect their own. 

The Department of Education, 2013, Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health in England, which conducted a meticulous audit into deaths of babies and children, reported identifiable failures in children’s direct care in just over a quarter of deaths, and potentially avoidable factors in a further 43% of deaths. 

The University of Northampton’s 2017 report, Before Arrival at Hospital: Factors affecting timing of admission to hospital with serious infectious illness, stated that parents often find it difficult to access relevant health information or to interpret symptoms. Also, that it can even be difficult for GPs to determine how serious a case is in the early stages. 

It is paramount that parents and carers have adequate knowledge and the skills to spot when their baby or child is sick, how to escalate their concerns and if necessary, challenge a decision made by a healthcare professional.  

I have been working with Cornwall Resus that was initially established in 2012 by two paediatric nurses to inform parents and carers of the necessary skills needed to empower them to recognise when their baby or child is unwell and to respond appropriately.  

They run parents’ courses in community centres around Cornwall that last 2-2.5 hours, including practical training on choking and resuscitation using life like dummies and allowing lots of time for questions and discussion at the end. It costs £30.00 per person. They have done 2 courses per month for the last 5 years with between 8-14 people per session. They have great feedback from parents and carers who say they feel more confident as well as from local GPs. 

Every parent and carer should have the opportunity to access similar training, and while £30 is a modest investment, it will be a barrier to some parents. I want the government to enable every parent or carer to have access to high quality evidence-based training, delivered by appropriate providers. I believe that this may help to reduce morbidity, mortality and very importantly, family distress, as well as helping to tackle the associated cost of treatment, hospital admissions and possible litigation. I also think it will reduce demand on the NHS.  

The NHS is rightly focussed on prevention of ill health and injury, so I am encouraging the Government to provide funding to enable a small group of local NHS commissioning groups to pilot the provision of infant first aid for all parents and collect comprehensive data to ascertain its effectiveness. 

First published on 01/04/19 in Politics Home https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/health-and-care/house/house-magazine/102881/sarah-newton-train-parents-spot-serious-illness

Helping people with mental health problems into employment

An estimated 300,000 people lose their job every year because of a mental health problem. Many wanted to and could have remained in employment had they been given the right support. 

I recently spoke at a CBI event to welcome the launch of Front of Mind, their new good practice guidance which helps employers improve health and wellbeing in the workplace. I also helped launch the free, online CIPD People Managers Guide to Mental Health. 

People with mental health conditions can make a valuable contribution in the workplace. We need real cultural change in every local workplace to prevent valued colleagues leaving a job they love because of mental health problems. 

For employers this can feel daunting. The mental health charity, Mind, found that while employers want to make mental health a priority, a third don’t know where to go for information or guidance. 

That’s exactly why practical resources like Front of Mind are so important. Highlighting examples from UK employers that are already leading the way, the guidance shows that successful businesses are taking key three steps: prioritising health and wellbeing from the top, targeting action towards early interventions and embedding good health and wellbeing in workplace culture. 

Not only does Front of Mind offer practical tips for employers, it also demonstrates the business case for making progress on workplace mental health. 

While the human suffering of losing a job is well understood, the impact of mental health issues for UK employers is less well known, costing between £33 billion and £42 billion every year. Clearly, making mental health a priority in the workplace is not just the right thing to do – it also makes good business sense. 

We don’t expect employers to do this on their own. Government has an important role to play in supporting people with a mental health condition. We’ve made good progress, with a range of support on offer. NHS spending on mental health increased to a record £11.86 billion last year, with a further investment of £1 billion by 2020/21. 

While there is much more to do, we have seen more investment in mental health services here, including specialist perinatal mental services and those for young people. Recruitment has started for staff at the new children and adolescent residential mental health centre, Sowenna in Bodmin.  

On employment support, the DWP is investing £115 million in partnership with the NHS, more than doubling the number of Employment Advisers in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Services. Our new Work and Health Programme is investing £500 million in tailored employment support, delivered by PLUSS in Cornwall it is helping disabled people and those with health conditions into a job. And our Access to Work scheme has a specialised mental health support service which has supported over 12,000 people. More than 90% of people who have used the service were still in their job after six months. 

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has secured £465,000 of Government funding to help local businesses recruit and retain people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. 

The Cornwall Work and Health Beacon Project is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to widen the pool of talent and experience available to employers, creating opportunities for local people and helping to tackle skills shortages. 

The project will work with businesses to co-create solutions and build their confidence to employ and retain people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, and ensure they have the right support and information available to them. 

In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there are almost 50,000 working age people whose day-to-day activities are limited by a long-term illness or disability. This is over 15% of the working age population, and well above the national average. 

The positive links between work and health are well proven and the Government is committed to supporting more disabled people into work. The LEP has already done some excellent work in this area and I want to encourage all local senior managers and business leaders to make a real, tangible commitment to improving workplace culture around mental health. This isn’t an issue for other businesses to deal with, or something we can leave HR to worry about. The leaders of any organisation are pivotal in shaping its culture and exemplary behaviour has to start at the top. 

My vision is of a society where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and no one loses their job because of poor mental health. It’s now time for every leader in every sector to take responsibility for creating an environment in which people feel able to talk about their mental health condition and get the help they need to thrive at work. 

First published in the Falmouth Wave Fabruary edition