Maria Eagle, who is the minister responsible for
disabled people, carers benefits and attendance allowances, is to
take part in this discussion forum.
Before being appointed to her present role as junior minister in
the department of work and pensions, Eagle was parliamentary
private secretary to former health minister John Hutton. In her
current role she is also in charge of pensions policy.
If you would like to ask the minister a question relating to her
specialist areas please send it to us (one question per person
please) by clicking
here before 31 January. All the questions and her responses
will be posted here on Monday 11 February.
There is a second opportunity to Have your say
this week focusing on how new technology can help older people
retain their independence.
Do you have any experience of using aids or have a question
about a particular gadget? We would like to receive your views and
questions, which Dr Frank Miskelly, consultant physician at Charing
Cross Hospital, will respond to.
Have your say by
clicking here and sending us your question
before 30 January. A report with the answers from Dr Miskelly will
appear on the website on 5 February.
(see below for report on rough sleepers
These are the responses we received to last week’s
debate on the learning difficulties white paper Valuing
“The white paper is a step in the right
direction. Whether resources are universally available to implement
it is another matter. For me, it does not go far enough in one key
area. It emphasises the importance of employment opportunities, but
does not properly address the benefits trap and disincentives to
work. Post-publication attempts have also been unconvincing.
Elsewhere, in the wider public service debate, the government
says it is trying to eradicate so-called ‘postcode lotteries’, but
Valuing People does not posit the setting up of a national
framework for supported employment, thereby making it difficult to
compare and monitor these for quality and outcomes against each
other, where these services even exist.
My only other comment is that my reading of Valuing People with
‘user and carer’ being mentioned in the same breath as
incompatible. These need separating out, rather than pretending
users and carers always have the same agenda.“
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
“There seems to be a variety of responses to
‘Valuing People’ – where local authorities were already working in
partnership with health and good communication was part of everyday
practice, the objectives of Valuing People have been embraced.
Partnerships with providers, people who use services and families
are robust and effective.
To the other extreme, some authorities have struggled for years
with financial issues. They have very difficult and tenuous
relationships with health, still consider consultation and
involvement as an ‘add on’ and are struggling with getting the LD
board off the ground.
As an example: I was provided with information last week from a
local authority in South Yorkshire that it had to make cuts to
disability services for the new financial year. This is in an
authority where many providers are operating in a deficit position
and cannot work with social services to move services on due to
limitations of the local authority’s standing orders. This is going
to cause many providers great concern when faced with the
implications of the National Care Standards Commission .Where
commissioning and care management functions are not co-ordinated it
becomes a complete nightmare for providers, but ultimately the
victims are people with a learning disability .
I strongly believe that the ability to implement the policies
and guidance of Valuing People is still heavily contingent upon the
competence and personalities of lead players in local
authorities/health authorities. There needs to be confidence in the
Valuing People implementation team that they will undertake close
reviews and track the progression of an authority, and that this
progression is celebrated or that where an authority is failing
quick action should be taken.“
“I am employed as a specialist practitioner in
a learning disability service. At present our service is attempting
to join up with social services to work as a confederation
following government guidelines on health partnerships.
This has been stopped because the pensions services cannot work
out, or should I say cannot use their so-called intellect, to bring
both the health and social services together. We are now being
forced to go with a mental health trust. Once again learning
disability services will become the cinderella service.
I thought we had move correctly from mental health in the early
seventies. To make Valuing People work we have to have a more
joined up service. Not one that is ruled by the unions like Unison
because they will loose their area members.
People are trying under difficult circumstances to make it work.
It is getting lost from the health service side because of all the
changes with trusts, regional changes and area health authorities
going. There is nobody shouting up or listening. Yes, the financial
part is important when your service is being used to prop up other
services. Government have said go out and do, but have not put the
finishing touches as usual. It sounds good on paper but we also
need the legislation to be followed through.“
These are the responses we received to the debate on
rough sleepers and the government’s claim that the number has
reduced by two thirds:
“I was involved in the street count in central
London in December 2001, and can confirm that numbers out that
night were significantly lower than we have seen before. I don’t
think manipulation of the figures would account for the visible
changes I saw, although I am concerned that not all the moves
inside will last permanently.
I think the focus on the single night counts is a bit
misleading, because these are only a snapshot of the most visible
part of the rough sleeping population. No-one is suggesting that
these counts provide the total picture – but they have proved to be
a useful indication of the wider problem. There is a great deal of
more detailed information available to the rough sleepers unit
which shows how many people have been worked with overall by the
“CAT” outreach teams, and how many people have been helped off the
streets and into accommodation.
Those figures show that the RSU strategy has done a lot of good,
but has yet to solve the root causes of why people become homeless
and why so many people come in and out of homelessness, never
achieving stability or independence.
The bigger prevention issues are the real challenge which the
government is beginning to address through the Homelessness Bill
and the new homelessness division within DTLR. Continued debate
about the validity of street count figures is taking attention away
from the most important issues, which are how solutions to rough
sleeping can be made sustainable and how we can prevent
homelessness in the first place.“
Policy development manager, housing and social services, Royal
Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
“As a designated rough sleeper area, we did
feel under pressure earlier last year to find no rough sleepers,
but actually when it came to the count, the RSU representative was
keen to be accurate and to find anybody who was sleeping rough.
In York at least, the RSU funding has made a huge difference to
what we can do for rough sleepers, including their funding of a
night hostel to add to our existing hostel. Our concern is that the
headline reduction by 2/3rds will be seen as no further need for
funding. In reality, most people are no longer having to sleep on
the street, but are still not able to live successfully in a
tenancy. Therefore funding of shelter beds needs to be continued,
but funding to resettle customers into independent living needs to
be increased and concentrated on. Otherwise we achieve keeping
people off the streets but can’t move them on. In time, of course,
with no throughput to independence, the shelter beds become blocked
and we are back to having people sleeping on the streets.
The lack of firm funding decisions is already putting existing
services at risk and we would encourage the RSU to make future
funding clear as early as possible before services have to close
for lack of committed funding.“
Head of advice and housing assessments, York council
“I do not think it is true that the number of
rough sleepers in London has reduced as much as the RSU are
“If the government’s ‘rough sleepers
initiative’ has been such a success why are there still so many
rough sleepers in London, alone? I live and work in London, I also
work in social services and see that the problem of rough sleepers
has not diminished as the government claim. Everywhere I go in
London there are people bedding down for the night in shop doorways
or on park benches. I find it disgusting!
The government spends all its energy and tax payers money on
interfering with how other countries should live, and decides on
what’s civilised and what’s not! I believe that every human being
has a right to the basic protection of a roof, floor and four
walls. Quite frankly I think Tony Blair needs to spend more time in
the community and see how the other half lives!! The gap between
the rich and poor is no more evident than the difference between
north and south Kensington.
As a student of government policy I have researched into the
issues of homelessness and what responsibility the government has,
it has been clearly evident that central government is placing more
and more pressure on other organisations to intervene, such as the
Church, voluntary organisations and the private sector. London
social housing is predominately monopolised by housing associations
who are often so disorganised!!
Central government has a responsibility to ensure all human
beings living on this land receive the opportunity to housing. It
is a basic human right, such as right to food and