On 27th May I received mail with an attached letter from Laurie A’Court of Norfolk County Council. This letter is copied below with my italics.:
I refer to your original complaint of 7th April and the subsequent email correspondence with Mr Bowerbank, County Manager, Sensory Support Unit who responded initially. As you initiated correspondence by email I hope you are happy to receive a response by email rather than through the postal system. You have expressed your concern that the Joint Strategy for People with Physical and Sensory Impairment is discriminatory and you still have those concerns following the previous communications. I hope the following information helps to further explain our view.
Firstly, you have asked for a copy of the Mental Health Strategy. I have asked for a copy of this to be emailed to you separately as soon as possible.
On a point of clarification, in your email to Paul Bowerbank on 21st May you refer to a Joint Strategy for monitoring Personalisation in Norfolk. There is no Strategy with this name and I have taken it that you mean the Joint Strategy for People with Physical and Sensory Impairment.
Work on developing the Strategy for People with Physical and Sensory Impairments was initially discussed with the NCODP because the previous Strategy was ending. This offered the opportunity to develop an approach which was truly user led and therefore more likely to better reflect the needs of people who use services. So far as I am aware this is nationally a groundbreaking piece of work and reflects the desire of central government (and continuing with the new government I believe) that local user led organisations and statutory agencies work together to improve the experiences of people using services. The chief executive of NCODP chaired the group developing the Strategy and chairs the subsequent Board. NCODP represents a wide range of disabled people of all ages and organisations, including those with mental health problems and groups working with, or representing, people with mental health problems. The specifically commissioned underpinning social action research has I believe provided the Strategy with grassroots evidence from a cross section of disabled people, including people with mental health problems, and the subsequent recommendations have been taken account of in the current strategy.
The Strategy is aimed at improving services for people with physical and sensory impairments but I’m not aware that anywhere it specifically excludes people with mental health problems as you state. If it does I should be grateful if you would draw my attention to the wording. I do not believe that the Strategy is in breach of discrimination legislation or central government policy guidelines. From other responses we have had the Strategy is perceived as setting a good practice example and goes a long way towards supporting the delivery of Putting People First to which you also refer.
Whilst it would be desirable to achieve an all inclusive strategy for the delivery of social support to everyone who is eligible whatever their need, diagnosis, disability or age this would never be possible because of the enormity of the task. Organisationally, as you know, we are structurally separated into different management groups and teams to keep the business as manageable as possible. Strategies are generally developed in these groups with partners. Although we are making progress improving cross departmental and organisational work in several areas one of the challenges in this context is to try and cross reference and join up Strategies.
In this case we could have been more explicit in the Strategy about any joining up although in implementing the action plan we are being successful in this respect. Within the JCS Board, and for those of us involved in trying to implement the Strategy, we have been clear and explicit in discussions from the beginning that whilst this is a strategy for people with physical and sensory impairments many of the actions underpin successful transformation and personalisation of services and therefore apply across the board to people whatever their disability.
For example, and as I expect you are aware through your involvement with the JCS Training Group, one of the actions in the plan is to incorporate the principles agreed in the Strategy into new contracts and specifications. We are making progress with this and recognising that the principles apply globally have involved representatives from mental health, learning difficulties, older people, sensory and physical impairment services as well as Supporting People to discuss these principles being incorporated into all contracts. A further example of inclusiveness is the action to develop social model training which is being worked up across adult social care with a focus on the whole workforce irrespective of any specialist professional focus. It is being worked on jointly with Health with a view to being incorporated widely across the local NHS.
The model of co-production in developing the Strategy has acted as a stimulus to senior level discussions about developing a strategic partnership with NCODP, as Norfolk’s largest representative user led organisation, to co-produce transformation and personalisation for all service users, including preventative services, based on Putting People First principles.
Our partnership work with this Strategy is one of the most inclusive pieces of work we have undertaken and I believe that we are setting good practice standards which will benefit all service users. In the way we are working we are consistently doing all we can to be inclusive rather than discriminatory.
I hope the additional information is helpful. Please do contact me if it would assist.
With best wishes
Physical and Sensory Impairment and HIV/AIDS
It is essential to remember that Norfolk CC is but one party to the Joint Strategy Board for People with Physical and Sensory Disabilities - the others being the Norfolk PCT, the Gt Yarmouth and Waveney PCT and the housing organisation involved. It should also be remembered that I made the same formal complaint to both of the NHS Trusts involved at the same time as to Norfolk CC. I have heard nothing whatsoever from those organisations and I intend to follow this up. However I am satisfied the statements in Laurie’s letter install good practice as far as Norfolk CC are concerned and I replied as below:
Yes of course it's fine for your formal response to be via e mail but thank you for asking. And yes, your response is helpful and good to hear. You say:
`Within the JCS Board, and for those of us involved in trying to implement the Strategy, we have been clear and explicit in discussions from the beginning that whilst this is a strategy for people with physical and sensory impairments many of the actions underpin successful transformation and personalisation of services and therefore apply across the board to people whatever their disability.`
This is, with relief, a different position to that which I expressed in my penultimate e mail to Mr Bowerbank:
`...we, the NCODP group of service users who volunteered for the Joint Strategy, were all told , right at the outset, categorically by Bill Albert and Peter DeOude of NCODP, who were leading the Joint Strategy workshops, that mental health was NOT included in the scheme. This was later confirmed by Mark Harrison who is not only the Ceo of NCODP but also the Chair of the Joint Strategy Board for people with Physical and Sensory Disabilities from whence the Strategy came.`
It seems that, either our user group was seriously misinformed when we began the project, or the Board has relented and reconsidered it's position.
Whatever, I will take your response as final clarification and I am happy that my complaint is resolved.