Trying to keep up a good balance

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last blog.

I’ve tried to continue with my plan of a good mix of work and ‘me’. With some hair and pedicure appointments I have managed to spoil myself and I even visited a gym to see if I could get motivated into getting fit. I’m not sure I’m disciplined enough to make the time yet though. But I do hope to get there one day.

As I was a little behind with paperwork I did get up early around my appointments to make up for lost time.

Business and pleasure in Taunton

I had a very early start to meetings in Taunton last Wednesday so thought it would be a good idea to book into a hotel in Taunton for Tuesday night for both John and I. We could have a little mini break and also check out the local restaurants. It meant I would also get a bit of a lie in and be up bright and early ready for the group meeting at 8.30am and SCC Full Council meeting at 10am.

We had a really lovely night in Taunton, sampling some unusual gins in the Castle Hotel and a very different Indian meal. We both enjoyed time out from home, not worrying about the dog, or me having an early two-hour drive to Taunton. It’s not something we can do every time I am in Taunton because eating out, hotel and dog sitter does not come cheap, however, it was worth it in the end.

Straight after the meetings in Taunton we headed home as I had a meeting to discuss a planning appeal locally.

On Thursday I was at MDC for a meeting then back to Taunton on Friday with two Rode Councillors. We were meeting with Highways Officers to discuss a road improvement scheme planned to resolve issues in Rode. It was also an opportunity to catch up on two other schemes in Norton St Philip and Frome.

I then met with a communications officer to find out why certain postcodes in my division were not receiving a SCC resident newspaper, Somerset Matters. We agreed a plan of action to deal with that problem and the next step is to implement that plan. I then travelled back to Rode for another meeting with a MDC officer.

Completing projects a priority

On Saturday, I took a break from the office , although on Sunday I had to get up early to work on two big projects, both with deadlines and ones that I had been working on all the previous week. With still a lot to do, I stood back and decided I should cancel at least two meetings, one on Monday and one on Thursday to get the job finished.

Looking into August, the meetings are fewer, but I have the deadline of those two projects looming. So that will be my priority. On a personal note, I have a less than pleasurable 3 hour appointment with the dentist.

I also have to confess, that I did not go to the carers conference as I planned as I felt I didn’t have the time to do so. It was a great shame and maybe something I should have made sure I went to. I guess my committing to my promise did not work for me that day. As I’ve said before though, I am trying and I have most certainly improved on the personal and work balance I had a year ago.

Staying true to my commitment

Thank you to everyone for your feedback on my last blog. It means a lot that people understand my circumstances and the importance of ensuring my own and John’s health come first.

I want to try and keep you updated on the work I am doing over coming months so will hopefully be publishing regular communications to you highlighting key issues, meetings and events that are taking place locally. And also trying to show you that a true worklife balance can be achieved if you commit to it, especially if you are caring for someone too.

My return to councillor duties started a week earlier than expected on 25 June when I attended a MDC Cabinet meeting, met with two of my Parish Councils to agree priorities, as well as a local resident to help with concerns over a planning matter. I also had a brief meeting in Frome with the two Green Party County Councillors around a joint road improvement scheme we have been working on.

Committing to my promise

It was a busy first week, and you probably thing I have not committed to the worklife balance I promised myself. However, it also included two medical appointments. The first was a day at Ammerdown Centre, which was one of the days available to carers through the Adult Carers Assessment Worker, I have been referred to.

At first I was thinking it was not for me and I had lots of things I needed to do (Note to self, must commit to the promise I made myself and John on returning to work).

However, it was really helpful and relaxing. I got to try Tai Chi, which is something I have wanted to do for many years. It certainly demonstrated that time out is so important. I now need to find a Tai Chi class locally – and should read the book I bought on Tail Chi about 25 years ago!

John and I even managed to take some time out on Friday and went to Studland Bay. A beautiful place for anyone who is trying to think of somewhere to visit for the day.

I have to be honest and say the weekend was spent catching up on paperwork, both Council and personal, but otherwise not doing much else.

The first week of July also proved busy. I met separately with three other Parish Council members to discuss and agree priorities; attended Rode PC meeting; a builder and local resident to help resolve a planning issue; and finally attended a joint meeting with John and his Adult Health Care Worker.

Several appointments have been made to meet with SCC Highways officers to discuss the three road improvement schemes I have applied for. We will hopefully be able to agree how best to move these forward.

This week I’ve had two further medical appointments to attend with John, a , meeting arranged with a resident and architect to discuss his planning application, one with a member of the planning team in MDC and a Carers Conference to attend at DIllington House.

Next week is going to be busy too. I’ve already got seven appointments booked that are council related in both Mendip and Taunton, plus one medical appointment with John and two personal ones.

I guess I am well and truly back. So far I am managing to juggle private commitments with council ones. The key is to maintain this.

For further information on the Somerset Carers Service visit their website.

Next steps for libraries set out

Over 7,000 Somerset residents and organisations have taken part in a 19-week library service redesign consultation.

7,015 responses in total were received from a wide section of communities across Somerset.

Survey respondents were asked to review a set of proposals for the library they visit most often and consider the impacts the proposals will have on them, their family and their communities. They were also asked for alternative ideas on delivering library services going forward.

Responses came via paper and online questionnaires and emails. Nineteen drop-in events also took place during the consultation period, 29 January to 13 June.

Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries at Somerset County Council, said: “I want to thank everyone who completed the survey or took time to write in; we’ve been given a huge wealth of views and information including many responses from primary school aged children setting out how much they love their library.

“The high number of responses and the efforts that people all over the County have put into the process reinforces what we already knew. Library services are just as important to you as they are to us.

“We are proud of our library services, but as a Council we also have to live within our means at a time of unprecedented pressure on all our budgets. I stress that whatever the recommendations for Somerset’s library services will be going forward, communities will continue to have access to quality library services.”

The results of the library consultation will now be fully analysed over the summer with a detailed report published in September.

Recommendations on the future of Somerset’s library service are expected to be published on 27 September with a final decision taken by Somerset County Council’s Cabinet on 17 October.

Depending on the Cabinet decision, where expressions of interest are received from individual communities, Community Library Partnership proposals may be developed and agreed between November 2018 and March 2019.

Implementation of the library redesign programme is expected to start early next year.

 

Search is on for Somerset’s unsung heroes – can you help?

Do you know somebody who should be celebrated for their work with children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities and their families?

Do you know a child or young person who has inspired you in the way they have overcome challenges?

If so, Somerset County Council’s SEND Participation Team wants to hear from you as it looks for nominations for unsung heroes from across the county.

Working with the Somerset Parent Carer Forum they’re been searching for success stories involving children and young people, and those working with them.

They will be celebrated at a major showcase event in October being put together by and the young people and parent carers.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families said: “So many people quietly get on with amazing work for others, or equally quietly deal with and overcome great challenges.

“Now is a time when they can be recognised, so they need no longer be ‘unsung’.”

There are nine categories, including Child of the Year, Young Person of the Year, Innovative Working and Team of the Year.

The closing date for nominations is 27 July and you can get a nomination form by emailing SENDParticipationTeam@somerset.gov.uk.

Returning to work, determined to help, but with new perspective on life

I would like to thank local residents and my supporters for their patience during my leave of absence this year.

I wanted to be open with you about my experiences over the last 6 months and how they have impacted upon my life and my role as a District and County councillor in the future.

On 1 January I took a leave of absence in order to look after my husband John who was seriously ill with sarcoma and had a lengthy recovery period from surgery to remove his bladder. Thankfully, John is now clear of sarcoma and continues his journey towards good health and is growing accustomed to life with a stoma. This is a life changing experience and John is coping well with this.

However, he also suffers from a long term battle with anxiety and depression. If you met John, you would not know of his suffering. I know many many people suffer this terrible illness in silence. I want to bring my own experiences with John, his experiences and also mine as a carer, into the open so that we can highlight the issues and how we have dealt with his recent journey back to good physical fitness, alongside his mental health issues.

John’s health has impacted heavily on my own as his carer. Every day is different especially if it involves changes in medication, and sometimes it is not easy to know what to say to him, when to say it, and what not to say. Those giving day to day support for both physical and mental illness need support themselves. I am grateful to have been referred to a carers support service with Somerset NHS Partnership Trust. It’s good to talk to someone who is objective. If anyone reading this is a carer they can get help too. Make an appointment with your GP who can refer you to the relevant services.

With all this in mind, I will not be able to return to work at the same levels I had previously. I will be resuming my role District and County Councillor on 1 July. I have also been asked to consider joining the Somerset Partnership Carers Vision and Action Group. This group has been set up so local people can have their say in improving the Carers Services, and where ideas and thoughts can be put forward.

Realistic, work-life balance

Before I went on leave I was working 24/7 on some projects. The days of devoting long hours and working every single day on council matters is not sustainable and not what I should be doing. A lifestyle balance is key, and family must come first.

With John’s health now being a priority, as well as my own wellbeing as his carer, I know that I will need to be much more selective than previously on what I am able to realistically achieve. I also have an elderly father in Sheffield who is not well and I need to dedicate time spent with him over the coming months.

The one thing I can say confidently is that I will always strive to do my best for local people. I will not let anyone down by making commitments I cannot keep.

Please do get in touch if you need help or support on local issues. My door is open and I am here to hear your concerns and help you.

Access to routine GP services set to extend to evenings and weekends

This is great news for local residents.

Patients with long-term health conditions, young people and shift workers are just some of the people expected to benefit from a planned extension to the availability of appointments at Somerset’s GP Practices.

Practices across the county have extended the times when appointments are available into the early evening and at weekends with a range of primary care clinicians.

The scheme fulfils a pledge made by the government in 2015 to improve access to primary care services, which they believe could eventually improve access to as many as seven million patients a year across England*.

All of Somerset’s 71 GP Practices are currently contracted to deliver primary care medical services in ‘core’ opening times from 8.00am until 6.30pm. Through this new national scheme patients registered at a Somerset GP practice will now also be offered appointments from 6.30pm to 8.00pm, Monday to Friday and some appointments over the weekend.

There are 10 groups of between 3 and 13 practices in each local group in Somerset working together to deliver this improved access to routine appointments at evenings and weekends for the local registered population. Health staff working evenings and weekends will have access to the patient’s medical records and will be able to provide the same high standard of care as patients would expect during normal opening times.

Patients who wish to book a routine appointment in the evening or weekend can do so by telephoning or visiting their own GP Practice from Monday to Friday between 8.00am and 6.30pm.

The receptionist will advise them of the time and location of their appointment. Patients will be advised at the time of booking that they may not be able see a GP or health professional of their choice and may need to attend their appointment at a neighbouring GP surgery.

Dr Ed Ford, a GP and Chairman of the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Extending the availability of primary care appointments to the evenings and weekends should be a significant change for those patients who find it difficult to attend a primary care appointment during the day time.”

Somerset CCG wishes to remind people that the extension to routine GP services at evenings and weekends does not replace the current Somerset Out-Of-Hours Urgent Primary Care Service.

If patients or their family members become ill overnight or at the weekend and need medical advice or help outside of practice opening times, they should continue to call NHS 111.

Download patient FAQs

Adult social care initiative benefits local residents

I am proud to be supporting Community Connect – an initiative set up by Somerset Council.

Community Connect is an innovative approach to adult social care that is now benefitting local people and communities across the whole of Somerset. It is a partnership between community and voluntary organisations, Adult Social Care services and health services, who work together to provide advice and support to help people live as independently as possible in their community.

Community Connect can help people in many ways, including:

  • They can get information and advice quickly
  • They can get the support they need to stay independent
  • They can get help to find out what is happening in their community and meet new people
  • They can find out about volunteering opportunities
  • They can find out about equipment to support people to live at home.
  • If they are a carer, they can get advice and support to help with their caring role.

People can visit drop-ins across the county to have a conversation with someone and get quick and useful advice. They can speak to Community Agents and Village Agents (employed by the Community Council for Somerset), health professionals, Adult Social Care workers and community organisations, such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, and volunteers.

Dates and venues of all the drop-ins can be found the Somerset Council website.

More information about Community Connect (download the Community Connect leaflet).

267 bus service to continue until at least April

I am thrilled that the decision has been taken not to axe the 267 bus service (Monday–Thursday evening service between Frome and Bath).

Funding support from Rode and Norton St Philip Parish Council has been key to maintaining the service. BANES council also gave financial support and the shortfall was picked up by First Bus.

With a bit more financial help, promotional support from other local councils, including Somerset County Council, we will have more time to promote the service and hopefully prevent the service being axed in April next year.

Watch this space!

Thank you and please keep in touch

Thank you to all my supporters who voted me in for a further four years in Somerset County Council, representing Frome North Division. I was thrilled to be voted in with a majority of 43%, taking 52% of your votes. Thank you so much. I must also thank everyone who worked with me in my election campaign.

I was so relieved to be able to carry on with the work I had already started or that is in progress. There are many things I have been working with the Parish Councils on and with Somerset County Council officers. We can now continue the work we started and achieve some outcomes.

It is not easy ensuring that local residents I represent actually get to know what work I am doing on their behalf. For many of you, it will feel like us councillors only show our faces at election time. Believe me when I tell you that I work every single day on council matters. The one thing I find I do not have the time to do, is to let you know what I am doing. But this point marks a change, as I have decided to ensure I keep time aside for this from now on.

There are over 7500 electors in the Frome North Division and getting information to you on a regular basis can generally only be guaranteed through delivering leaflets through your door. As you can imagine trying to deliver to more than 4000 homes in the villages and the North of Frome is a challenge in itself.

Most of my contact with the local community is through the Parish Councils; direct contact from residents; and my website. In addition, I have now set up this Facebook page to try and engage with my constituents even more than I already do. I want to use it to promote all the work we are doing here in Mendip and Somerset and welcome your feedback, your views and concerns.

Some of the areas I continue working on and supporting you with are:

• The retention of the 267 evening bus service;
• Highways and pedestrian safety issues across the division;
• To provide a link between the County Council and the community making your voice heard on issues that matter to you;
• Seeking solutions to fly tipping in the area.

Please follow my new Facebook page to keep up to date with my work.