Agenda item

Mr Graham Gibbens (Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health), Ms Diane Marsh and Mrs Clair Bell (Deputy Cabinet Members for Adult Social Care and Public Health)


The Chairman welcomed the guests to the Committee and reminded the Committee of the Terms of Reference. A short introduction was given by Members and officers.

Q – Please introduce yourself and provide an overview of the roles and responsibilities that your post involves.

Mr Gibbens introduced himself as the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health. He said that the purpose of Adult Social Care was to support people (adults, young people and carers) who needed help with daily living to enable them to live as independently as possible in a place of their choice. He discussed the four key areas of Adult Social Care which were Older People and Physical Disability, Mental Health, Learning Disability and Disabled Children. Adult Social Care and Health provided social work, personal care, protection or social support services to children or adults in need or at risk or adults with needs arising from illness, disability, old age or poverty. He said that approximately £400m out of the £958m overall budget for Kent County Council each year was spent on Adult Social Care and was the largest individual budget within Kent County Council.

Q – Is there a mechanism in place within the Adult Social Care and Public Health services which locate individuals who have become unwell through loneliness and are failing to obtain services that they need because of social isolation?

Mr Gibbens said that one of the challenges that Adult Social Care and Health experienced was around exploring ways in which an increasing older population could be supported. He said that individuals aged 55+ contributed to the majority of Kent’s population, although many individuals that used Kent’s Adult Social Care and Health services were aged 80+ which meant that people were able to live independently for longer, this was with the help of Kent County Council’s services and many other supportive voluntary organisations. He said that he had always sought to support voluntary organisations such as Age UK and said there were many similar organisations which existed around Kent which carried out work for older people. He said that many voluntary organisations also supported carers who were caring for an individual with a long-term illness such as dementia who felt very isolated and lonely, the work that Kent undertook in supporting carers was direct work with the NHS and Clinical Commissioning Groups. He said that supporting carers during times of need was a very important part of Adult Social Care and Public Health’s activities. He said that organisations such as Age UK and The Over 60’s Community Service in Canterbury had been very effective in providing support to people and many of these organisations provided meals too, to reduce social isolation and loneliness which gave individuals the chance to sit with other people to eat and interact with them. He said that the spectrum of Age UK organisations around Kent undertook lots of work to ensure that older people were connected to their local community to prevent loneliness and social isolation. He said that he felt that the Adult Social Care and Public Health services provided by Kent County Council were good and supported voluntary organisations through financially challenging times. He said that many voluntary organisations provided Befriending services which were a vital function and many people in Kent relied on them. Befriending services provided friendly conversation and companionship on a regular basis over a long period of time. The service also provided an older person with a link to the outside world and acted as a gateway for other services and valuable support. He said that there were always challenges relating to individuals who were living in socially isolating situations and that social isolation and loneliness was a national issue. He said that physical and face-to-face contact with people was important and whilst improving technology was useful in many ways, it often lead to the loss of physical contact.


Q – Do Kent County Council currently offer a strategy for Social Isolation and Loneliness?


Mr Gibbens said that he had always supported the establishment of the Social Isolation Select Committee and had worked hard to ensure that more work was undertaken for individuals who were experiencing loneliness and social isolation. He said that if a person was lonely, they were unhappy, and if a person was increasingly isolated, it could bring more health conditions. He said that commissioning through voluntary organisations such as Age UK and Canterbury’s Over 60’s Service proved that there was a Social Isolation and Loneliness strategy.


Q – How can Kent County Council work towards recommending the best prevention strategy?


Mr Gibbens said that the work that had been carried out with carers organisations was very important and upfront. He said that Adult Social Care and Public Health were working towards ensuring that a strategy was in place to ensure that carers were still able to carry out their role of caring whilst still being able to have a life of their own. He said that Public Health in Kent had undertaken much work for socially isolated people by organising group outings and health walks which had encouraged many older people to talk to one another whilst keeping fit and healthy. He talked about the Public Health budget and said that Kent County Council’s Public Health services’ aim was to significantly reduce health inequalities in Kent.


Q – What work are Kent County Council undertaking to identify older people who feel lonely and socially isolated?


Mr Gibbens said that identifying lonely and socially isolated individuals was difficult if they did not admit that they were feeling lonely and socially isolated. Therefore, Kent County Council were dependent on working with groups and voluntary organisations to share responsibilities. He said that Adult Social Care strived to connect with as many Age UK’s and homeless charities such as Porchlight around Kent as possible to allow sight into the different types of work that each organisation was undertaking to identify lonely elderly people and to ensure that support was being put into place for these individuals.


Q – Are we, as a Council, able to help individuals that are referred to local Health Centres by GP’s who have deteriorating health due to loneliness and social isolation?


Mr Gibbens said that Kent County Council were undertaking work to ensure that the close-working relationship between health and social care improved as it was vital and a key concept of local care. He said that the separation of health and social care was an issue nationally. He referred to the integrated health and social care system in Canterbury, New Zealand and how services were delivered. He said that the Sustainability and Transformation Plan had identified the need for stronger and more local care. He said that Kent County Council chaired the Local Care Implementation Board with the view to integrate health and social care.


Q – Since Kent County Council have experienced austerity and budget cuts, what services with Adult Social Care and Health have been stopped?


Mr Gibbens said that recent years had proved challenging for Adult Social Care nationally. He said that as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, he had worked hard to identify voluntary organisations in Kent and had worked with Transformation teams which had been a significant part of Kent’s social care strategy which set out how Kent could deliver services to residents more efficiently. He said that he was keen to work with Age UK to see how ideas and initiative could be shared and to see how more could be done to support Kent’s residents without increasing their budget. He referred to Kent County Council’s ‘Live Well’ Mental Health strategy and said that Adult Social Care were accessing more mental health clients through organisations such as Porchlight. He said that although there were significant challenges across Kent in relation to loneliness and social isolation, through streamlining services, Kent could provide an effective, reasonable service to adults in Kent. He said that more people would be accessing Kent’s services due to the increasing population and people living longer and said that Kent should work together to be able to deliver services.


Q – How are we managing STP’s against a decreasing resource?


Mr Gibbens said that more money had been allocated to Health services and reminded Members of the Committee that it was for local members to account through Committees such as Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to ensure that the budget was being used in the most appropriate way.


Q – How can we ensure that individuals who are socially isolated engage with Kent County Council and other service providers and ask for the help?


Ms Marsh talked about the ‘Here for you, how did we do?’ Local Account for Kent County Council Adult Social Care which described the achievements, improvements and challenges over the past year and set out Kent County Council’s vision for the future. She said that it was important that Adult Social Care and Health tried to reach out to the lonely and socially isolated individuals that the Council were not aware of. She said that in relation to accessing services, social prescription was very important, Kent County Council needed to ensure that staff were signposting individuals when recognising that they were socially isolated or experiencing loneliness. Ms Marsh talked about a personal experience and said that she had previously worked in a very deprived area in Northfleet and had launched a coffee morning, and the only person that attended the coffee morning was an individual that was starving hungry, suffered with mental health issues and had broken the connection with the ‘outside world’. The individual’s housing benefits had been stopped and he did not have access to a phone, and therefore when the borough council had attempted to call him to help, he could not answer. She said that she believed the system had failed the individual as he needed someone to have a face-to-face conversation with him and physical interaction. She talked about how local supermarkets had opened special café’s which offered individual’s the opportunity to talk to new people and there was also a ‘quiet hour’ for elderly people. She reiterated the importance of recognising that the services that Adult Social Care and Health within Kent County Council provided would help future generations as well as the current.


Q – In relation to GP’s, how actively are we in social prescribing to try and engage GP’s?


Mr Gibbens said that Kent County Council were encouraging work with GP’s to connect with older people as much as possible. Mrs Bell said that many people that are experiencing social isolation and loneliness don’t feel that they need to visit a doctor as they are fit and healthy individuals.


Q – What impact does technology have on socially isolated individuals?


Mrs Bell said there was a lot of scope for Kent in relation to technology to positive effect. She said that telecommunication and internet for connecting people was very important and could be very powerful if used in an appropriate way. She said that although there were many concerns in relation to social media and fast-changing technology, there was scope to encourage individuals to use technology through voluntary groups, and as generations changed, more and more people used social media, phones and computers. She said that there was still much work to be undertaken in relation to technology and opening eyes to possibilities such as creating a WhatsApp group to bring individuals closer. She said that individuals needed to seek ways in which to become more connected within their communities as Kent County Council could not reach everybody.


Q – Are there any other issues, in relation to the review, that you wish to raise with the Committee?


Mr Gibbens discussed the importance of the Social Isolation Select Committee and the importance of addressing the issue of Loneliness and Social Isolation in Kent. He said that although the Social Isolation Select Committee focused on individuals aged 60-65, Kent County Council acknowledged that loneliness did exist outside of that age group, for example, students, male suicide and working age adults with disabilities. Diane said that more intergenerational work needed to be done in the area of Social Isolation and Loneliness.


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