Our next full council assembly is on the horizon ( Wednesday 4 July) and I'm keen to gather your views once again for its themed debate. This time the focus will be on 'health in Southwark'.
It's now become an established part of our community engagament practice to seek the opinions of residents in advance of these public debates, so that councillors are better informed of 'the word on the street'. Or, as I like to think of it, hearing the heartbeat of the community.
Opinions and responses posted in discussion forums like this, or emailed directly to me, will be incorporated into a dossier of community views that will be circulated to all councillors before the assembly.
Here's a couple of starter questions:
What one thing could you do to improve your personal health and well-being?
What one thing could your local community do to improve health and well-being in your area?
I realise that these are two fairly general questions so, in terms of specifics, Southwark's four main health priorities at the moment are:
Prevention or reduction of alcohol related misuse
Living and coping with mental illness
Working with families to improve health and wellbeing
Healthy weight and exercise
With these in mind:
How can we best tackle alcohol misuse?
How can we better respond to the needs of people with mental illnesses?
How can we support families to improve their levels of health and wellbeing, especially the young?
How can we promote healthy weight and exercise?
We want to hear your responses to these questions and there's a number of ways in which you can let us know. You can post them here (and SE1 has proved to be a particularly rich source in the past) or you can email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on my direct line to have a chat. The number is 020 7525 5645.
Your views have become an important source of information for councillors and are becoming frequently referred to in the course of the public debate. Have a look at the community views summary from the previous themed debate to get an idea of how we record your feedback:
There's other tangible ways in which you can play a part in local democracy and decision-making. For example, all who live and work in the borough are welcome to raise questions and take deputations to council assemblies. There are a limited number of deputations that can be accepted at each meeting so it's best to request a slot as soon as possible.
Members of the public are also welcome to attend council assembly. A ticketing system will operate and it's advisable to arrive in good time for the start of the meeting at 7pm as space is limited in the public gallery. The assembly will be preceded by an hour-long informal session from 6pm with a variety of stalls, presentations, and performances on the theme of 'health in Southwark'.
Council assembly is the full meeting of all the ward councillors in Southwark, which takes place seven times a year.
The July 4th venue will be announced soon and it will be another community-based location. Recent assemblies have been hosted at The Harris Academy in Peckham, Walworth Academy, and The Charter School in Dulwich.
It's probably not possible with current budgets, but I'd like to see more exercise classes delivered in the community, to help people work out. Lots of people won't go to gyms so we need to try other ways to get them to exercise.
If you aren't very fit, it's difficult to start exercising and those held in gyms are aimed at those who are already fit. We need activities that are suitable for a much lower level of fitness.
The mental health services have taken a real hit over the past few years, and as a service user I am afraid for the future. I used to be on an enhanced care programme and while my mental health hasn't improved at all, the input I get now is minimal, and time-limited. There used to be therapy groups (art, pottery, crafts) and one could be a day-patient but the psych wards I knew at Guys have closed (moved to Maudsley).
The current mental health provisions are totally inadequate and centre around crisis management for the most acutely ill, and the rest get a time-limited "staying well" programme at the end of which you are discharged back to your GP, who may not have the time to give you enough attention.
I really fear that someone is going to slip through the net and end up dead, because they don't fit the criteria (which seem to change without telling anyone).
Re health and fitness: there used to be a "gym on prescription" deal, where one's GP could refer you to Southwark's swimming pools and gyms. Does that still exist?
I completely agree with tackling public disorder (if that's what you mean by alcohol misuse), and helping those with mental health issues, but I don't think it's Southwark Council's role to make people slimmer and healthier.
How about they stopped spending so much money nannying the residents and maybe looked at reducing our sky-high council tax? We have so much of this stuff from central government already. There's only so many times you can tell people to stop eating burgers and take exercise, the ultimate choice rests with them.
I believe that Southwark now lead on public health, with the abolition of the PCT, so they are responsible for the major health challenges, of which obesity is one of the major ones (plus mental health). I don't think councils got any money for this new role, so it's more of an honorary position!
Aunti Pat, yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that local authority resources should not be taken into account when assessing disabled peoples needs. Charities say that thousands disabled people previously denied social care could potentially win access to services.