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Declarations of Interest
There were none at this meeting.
Report of the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing and the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
The Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing thanked members for the opportunity to meet with the three select committees, Healthy Staffordshire, Safe and Strong Communities and Prosperous Staffordshire, to seek their thoughts, questions and any concerns in relation to the draft Whole Life Disability Strategy.
Members were informed that the County Council was facing an unprecedented financial challenge with an ageing population, rising costs and a budget which was falling in real terms. This meant that the approach to the provision of services and support for all residents, including people with disabilities, needed to balance meeting need with affordability. It was acknowledged that change was a difficult thing to achieve, and that there was a wide variety in the support provided. What was needed was an equitable strategy and for changes to be communicated well. This meeting was an opportunity to reflect on potential changes and for members’ views to help shape the future. The philosophy of “choice at any cost” could no longer be followed, whilst recognising the gravity and impact on people’s lives of any changes to provision.
Concern was expressed over difficulties in accessing support around mental health issues. The pathway was clear if a diagnosis had been obtained, but if that was not the case often parents did not know where to access support. The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People assured members that he believed that dealing with children with mental health problems was a really important issue. Feedback had been given to the Government on its Green Paper and discussions had taken place with the Department for Education on the possibility of the County Council becoming a trailblazer in some areas of mental health. Work would need to be undertaken with officers involved with the commissioning of wellbeing services. It was suggested that the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, approved in 2014 and due for a review in 2019, would be a useful point of reference.
It was queried why the document was so narrowly focused on learning disability. Within the headline information relating to people with disabilities in Staffordshire, of 100 adults: 3 had a learning disability, 11 had a physical disability, and 17 had a mental health condition. Furthermore, people with a mental illness died on average 20 years earlier than those without. The document only focused on the mental health of carers.
Concern was also expressed that there was not much reference to Early Years, and that early diagnosis and intervention was absolutely vital to enable people to reach their full potential. It was confirmed that there were references to Early Years, and that one of the pilot schemes within the SEND Transformation Programme focused on work around Early Years. A member pointed out that there had been criticism that the staff in the County Council working in Early Years didn’t have specialist experience of disabilities, and it was queried how highly trained the staff were who were making the assessments. Members were ... view the full minutes text for item 2.