Reporting Back - November 2022

The latest news from the Liberal Democrat Group on Somerset County Council

Support to mitigate impact of Cost of Living crisis this winter

Somerset County Council’s Executive have approved a wide-ranging package of support to help local people deal with the impacts of the Cost of Living crisis this winter.

Support includes financial assistance with food and energy bills through the Household Support Fund, a ‘Warm Welcome’ network of venues where people can find warmth and company, as well as targeted support for clinically vulnerable people in cold homes.

Somerset County Council declared a Cost of Living emergency in July of this year, and set-up a cross-party working group to investigate action the Council can take to help people through this period.

That group has worked closely with Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council and Somerset West and Taunton Council, as well as partners in the voluntary and community sector, to put in place initiatives to bolster the support package provided by central Government.

Somerset residents struggling to pay the bills this winter could be eligible for support through the Household Support Fund.

The County Council has been allocated £3.8m to distribute before March 31st 2023 as part of the third round of funding provided through the Government’s Household Support Fund.

This funding will be used to provide food vouchers worth £10 a week to children eligible for Free School Meals during the school holidays, and enable people to apply for support with a range of urgent essentials including fuel, food, and white goods.

Somerset County Council has contributed a total of £250,000 to Somerset Community Foundation’s Cost of Living Crisis Appeal fund which will be used to support food resilience, energy projects and the ‘Warm Welcome’ network. Somerset West and Taunton Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council and Mendip District Council have also contributed £50,000 each to the SCF Cost of Living Crisis Appeal.

The Warm Welcome initiative is a network of venues that will offer an inviting place for people to keep warm. These venues will offer optional activities, or a place to get some work or homework done, or even just see a friendly face for a chat.

Spark Somerset is being funded to develop the programme and build a framework, identify appropriate spaces and co-ordinate the project moving forward. Somerset Libraries will be open as usual to offer a warm and welcoming space to all. Once all of the warm spaces have been confirmed, a public map will be made available.

Spark Somerset will also be supporting food resilience in the county as part of this work, meanwhile a map of all foodbanks, pantries, and food cupboards in Somerset is being developed which will be made publicly available.

Other support this winter includes the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) Safe and Warm Somerset helpline, which supports people who are clinically vulnerable and struggling to afford their energy bills and living in a cold home. 

A total of £314,000 has been provided from Somerset County Council’s Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) Grant which means that in addition to delivery of their standard offer, CSE will also take on targeted outreach to clinically vulnerable people in cold homes and help arrange the installation of insulation and heating measures to improve the energy efficiency of low income or low EPC-rated homes.

The Council is using an additional £65,000 from the CEV grant to fund Open Mental Health to provide targeted face-to-face help at home for approximately 500 older adults in need of mental health support.

To make an application to the Household Support Fund, please visit: bit.ly/SupportFund22.  If you need help to apply, please phone Somerset County Council on 0300 123 2224. People who applied to previous rounds of the Household Support Fund are welcome to apply again in this round of funding.

To donate to the Somerset Cost-of-Living Crisis Appeal today visit: www.somersetcf.org.uk or call 01749 344949.

For more information about support available for Somerset residents, please visit: https://www.somerset.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/additional-support-for-somerset-residents/

 

Taunton to have its own Town Council

Taunton – Somerset’s county town – will be represented by a new Town Council for the first time in 50 years.

The grass-roots council is due to come into being on 1 April next year – just as the new, unitary Somerset Council is launched.

Both Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) and Somerset County Council (SCC) held special full council meetings to approve the creation of a new town council for Taunton and changes to local governance arrangements, marking the culmination of two years of intensive work, research and consultation.

The decisions mean a legal order will be made for a town council to represent Taunton - the centre of which was the only part of Somerset not to be parished as a result of local government reorganisation in 1974.  

The commitment to a Town Council for Taunton was made in the business case for the new, unitary council in Somerset which recognised the need for Taunton to have a strong town voice when the role of city, town and parish councils becomes even more important. Both the district and county councils worked in partnership to deliver shared pledges on creating the new Town Council.

 

Somerset County Council launches Orange Button Scheme at Walk for a Life event

More than 50 people walked through the streets of Taunton to raise awareness of suicide across Somerset.

Many of those taking part in Somerset County Council’s inaugural ‘Walk for a Life’ event were walking in memory of loved ones or because of their own experiences. The groups paused for reflection at Vivary Park’s bandstand before laying flowers at a bench donated by Ricky Gervais’ Netflix programme ‘After Life’.

The walk finished at the Somerset County Cricket Club, where a number of partners were on hand to offer information and advice including Somerset Foundation Trust, Open Mental Health and Stepladder.

The event also marked the launch of Somerset County Council’s new ‘Orange Button’ scheme: a community-based suicide awareness scheme. 

People who are having thoughts of suicide, or who are worried about a friend or family member, can now “push the button” when they see someone wearing a distinctive orange badge, and ask them for information and support.

The Orange Button is worn by people in Somerset who have undergone quality assured Mental Health or Suicide Prevention training: whilst they are not able to counsel people, they can help people to find relevant services locally.

To find out more about the Orange Button scheme including how to become an orange button wearer, please visit https://www.healthysomerset.co.uk/support-with-your-mental-health/training/.

 

Somerset social workers shortlisted for top national award

Two brilliant Somerset social workers have been shortlisted for a prestigious award in recognition of their outstanding leadership and practice.

Louise White and Janet Hardy, who are both Service Managers in Somerset County Council’s Adult Social Care Department, have been selected as finalists in the Team Leader of the Year (Adult Services) category at the annual Social Worker of the Year Awards.

Finalists were selected for showing clear leadership skills and evidence of how they have either nurtured an effective working environment, achieved cultural change, or improved service quality and outcomes.

The shortlist, which features more than 90 outstanding practitioners, teams, and organisations in 17 categories, was chosen by an independent judging panel made up of young care leavers, social workers, industry leaders, and people with lived experience of social work.

The winners will be revealed during the Social Work Awards 2022 ceremony, being held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on Friday, November 4.

For more information about the awards, visit www.socialworkawards.com

 

Somerset hosts trailblazing conference to tackle child exploitation

Somerset County Council has hosted a trailblazing multi-agency conference in Taunton, sharing best practice on combating Child Exploitation. Guests included the NHS, police, social workers and Representatives from the voluntary sector.

Somerset’s specialist exploitation Social Workers opened the conference, sharing their experiences of  working as part of a multi-agency team to help young people recognise when they are being used or exploited and how to find and use the support that is available to them. They also outlined examples of good practice highlighted by Ofsted during its recent inspection, which rated the County’s Children’s Social Care as providing  “good” services for children and families across the board.

Sammy Woodhouse, a survivor of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham spoke movingly about her experiences and how she has been able to help others.

The St Giles Trust – a charity which helps vulnerable young people who are exploited through gangs, serious violence and offending turn their lives around – ran interactive sessions with delegates, about empowering people to get the help they need.

 

Somerset’s Homelessness Health and Wellbeing work is runner up in National Awards

Work that has improved the health and wellbeing of Somerset’s homeless population has been named as a runner up in the finals of the Royal Society for Public Health’s prestigious Health & Wellbeing Awards 2022 in the ‘Health Equity’ category.

Somerset was shortlisted for its work protecting the county’s homeless population.

The award ceremony took place on 20th October and was hosted by RSPH President, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, and RSPH Vice President broadcaster, Natasha Kaplinsky.

By working together, organisations across Somerset, including the County Council, all District Councils, the NHS, Second Step, voluntary, community, and social enterprise accommodation and support providers, the police, probation service and Somerset Open Mental Health, have been able to prevent covid deaths among the county’s homeless population, deliver lifesaving medications, and provide tests and treatments for blood borne diseases. 

These colleagues have been working much more closely on this issue since 2019 and together have set up both the Somerset Homelessness Reduction Board and the NHS led Homeless and Rough Sleeper Nursing service. 

Together, these organisations carried out work to support not only the immediate and longer-term housing needs of Somerset’s homeless population, but also their health and wellbeing needs, helping people with mental health problems, substance dependence and physical health needs such as the need for testing and life-saving medicines. 

During the pandemic the wider health and housing teams worked to deal with a range of health protection issues by supporting homeless people into safe accommodation, vaccinating against Covid-19 and providing screening and treatment for blood borne diseases including Hepatitis C (HCV).

 

Learn a language for free with Somerset Libraries

Somerset Libraries have launched a new Translation Service, giving free access to an online language learning service.

The service, which is available to all library members, will work in a similar way to other online resources, giving Somerset library members (including those with full or digital memberships) access to the free service. which can be found at: www.somersetlibraries.co.uk/languagelearning

The service is delivered by Transparent language Online. Library staff have had access to training materials to help them understand what it offers so they can be on hand help members of the public sign up for membership and then access the service.

The service includes 120 languages so guests from many other countries will also have free access, simply by having a Somerset Libraries membership. It also enables anyone in Somerset to learn languages such as Ukrainian and Russian which could be especially useful for sponsors and people supporting displaced people in the county.

The Library Service is working with colleagues in the Resettlement Team, so that the training regarding this service will also include information about the various Welcome Hubs and other support services aimed at guests from other countries.

You can get a membership by calling into any Somerset library or online at: https://www.somerset.gov.uk/libraries-leisure-and-communities/libraries/libraries-services/library-membership/

 

GET INVOLVED

Hundreds sign up to help shape council services

More than 300 people have signed up to help shape the future of council services in Somerset.

From April 2023, Somerset’s five councils will be replaced by the new unitary Somerset Council which will deliver all council services to all communities – from waste collection and adult social care to housing, benefits and parks.

A new Customer Panel has been established to ensure residents are at the heart of those services.

Since launching in August, more than 300 people have stepped forward – with members already providing valuable feedback on important work like the development of a new council brand.

No special skills are required to join the panel, all you need is a willingness to take part in three research topics each year and provide honest and constructive feedback. Panel members will have the chance to take part in online surveys, one-to-one interviews, usability tests and discussion groups.

You can get involved in a number of different ways. Please find out more via our website (https://playbook.somerset.gov.uk/our-customer-panel/), or you can register by calling 0300 123 2224.

 

Have your say on Somerset’s SEND strategy

Members of the public in Somerset are invited to have their say on a new draft strategy for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND).

The Somerset SEND Partnership, which includes Somerset County Council, NHS Somerset, Somerset Parent Carer Forum and local education providers, have launched a consultation for the public to feedback on their updated SEND Strategy.

The strategy was shaped by extensive engagement with children, young people and families and sets out how services will be delivered and led over the next three years (2023-26).

The Somerset SEND Partnership have four key themes which outline their plan for SEND services, these are:

  • Working together
  • Getting help as early as possible
  • Access to the right support and provision
  • Preparing for the future

The consultation is open and will close on Friday 23 December. To read the strategy and provide feedback visit: https://somerset.inconsult.uk/SENDstrategy/consultationHome

After the consultation closes, the Somerset SEND Partnership will review all feedback and use this to update the strategy. The final strategy will be published in Spring 2023.

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