Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Making real changes to people's lives

One of the reasons Councillors stand for election is to make a difference to peoples’ lives – certainly one of the main reasons for me, which is I’m proud that in just two years we in West Sussex have got the lives of more than 750 families back on track, so really making a difference.

Equally I’m really proud too that we have helped 400 long-term unemployed off benefits and back into work.

In West Sussex we’re making the government’s welfare reforms a reality, intervening to help those families most in need.

The West Sussex Think Family Partnership is our version of the government’s Troubled Families initiative.

Under this programmer we are the leading authority for getting people back in employment.

We believe that while much of the good work goes on below the radar, the Think Family initiative is a real success story. We all know the value of a hand up far exceeds that of a hand out.

That’s why we’re delighted the government is going ahead with phase two, and we can continue our work and commitment to turn around more West Sussex lives.

So who do we help, and how?

Our Think Family scheme works with families in debt, with drug or alcohol problems, with mental or physical health concerns.

In some cases there might be a history of domestic violence. The children might not be attending school or could be getting into trouble. The whole family could be in danger of being evicted.

Of course in many instances we have known who these families are for years – they’re not new to us and in some cases it is  generation after generation – but, for a variety of reasons, despite various initiatives nobody has really managed to work with them successfully.

But by coordinated work with partners, building trust, and with a major amount of persistence, Think Family is succeeding in convincing them how much better their lives will be if they help us to help them.

The first step involves a dedicated keyworker – like family nurses for example - creating a plan both for the family as a whole and for individual family members. Although the process is consensual there’s absolutely a no-nonsense approach. The good news is that very few families decide not to stick with it.

The families then have dedicated help for between 9 and 18 months (depending on the level of need), working through their often complex problems.

It works because it is tailored; because it is targeted. It also works because we are joining up the public sector. So instead of our families receiving help from lots of different sources, they receive the full support they need through someone dedicated to their care and wellbeing.

We have also joined forces with those working to place people in employment, with Job Centre Plus and also with the private sector and our local colleges to link our families to opportunities in the job market.

Yes, we may have got hundreds back in paid work, but we’re certainly not resting on our laurels. We know that changes take time, and we are certainly in this for the long haul. 

One generation has learnt the behaviour of another, and possibly the one before that as well. It is about breaking this cycle.

What we’ve done is build a strong and sustainable team that can stick with these families for as long as it takes.

That’s why I’m really delighted by not only of our achievements to date, but also that we have been chosen to be among the first local authorities in line for the second phase of funding.

Over the coming months we will start to expand our Think Family programme to take on a further 600 West Sussex families.

Through our commitment and investment in the Think Family project we are making real changes to people’s lives helping them to independence and self-reliance and more. For anyone who wants to make a difference this is a very real example – and we continue.

Best wishes,   

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A fruitful summer for Better Roads and Operation Watershed

This has been a really good summer, with plenty of sunshine, which brings everyone out and of course visitors to West Sussex to enjoy all its delights, all of which is very good for the local economy.

Although  we have had quite a few changes at County Hall over the last few months, it is very much business as usual. This good weather has allowed us to push ahead with our Better Roads Programme and I'm really pleased to say that we are well ahead of this year's planned programme. To date:

  • 271 sites across West Sussex have been repaired, the equivalent of 49% of the entire programme; nearly £7.2m of the £30m budget has been spent;

  • 369,761 square metres of road surface has been repaired; and almost 100% of material removed during the work has been recycled.

The more roads we can repair now the better position we will be in for the winter when the weather is bound to take a turn for the worse.

But it is just not the Better Roads Programme that's been doing so well over these lovely last few months.  During the summer I have been out to look at an Operation Watershed project to see how that has been progressing. Although we are in the second year of Operation Watershed, there continues to be a real interest in Operation Watershed Grant Funds and I am pleased to say there is still money available.

We launched Operation Watershed in 2014 following the floods of the previous two years. It was an £8.5million fund that was used to carry out road and drainage repair works across the county but that also invited communities to bid to it to fund projects and schemes that would help protect them against future flooding.

Operation Watershed has been really successful. It has brought communities together who know about a local flood problem and would like to sort it out and resolved it to the benefit of the community at large. It is the local knowledge that is so important and that in turn has helped the County Council with more detailed localised information which, as the lead flood authority, has been really helpful.

One of our key policies is helping people to help themselves - and Operation Watershed does exactly that.

I'm delighted to see it going from strength to strength.

Best wishes,