Today (5 March) Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg is meeting with supermarkets and retailers in Exeter to discuss the impact of cheap alcohol and the effects it has on people in the South West.
This article in the Herald shows that it has become a culture for people, particularly those aged 17-25, to purchase cheap alcohol to drink at home before going to clubs on a night out. This has been linked to impacting on crime and disorder on the streets. In Plymouth, 2,500 crimes each year are linked to alcohol, and that’s just the ones which are reported.
Alcohol is also putting a stretch on the NHS with nearly 7,000 hospital admissions each year in Plymouth. It is also a factor in the high levels of domestic abuse in the city, and is involved in over 40% of domestic abuse incidents in Plymouth. 6,500 children in the city are likely to be affected by parental drinking each year which then impacts their lives through their methods of coping. This isn’t fair.
Problems with alcohol can either stem from other issues, or can be a creator of further issues and it is obvious that it needs to be taken seriously by those at the top before a shift in the drinking culture can take place.
We all understand that this will not change overnight, but the fact that it is being addressed by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Police shows that the issue is being taken seriously and is in need of change. We wish Mr. Hogg the best of luck for his meeting today and we hope that those he speaks to are keen to listen and get on board.
It has been announced that the number of people unemployed in the UK has fallen by 125,000 in three months to December. This announcement of recent statistics also shows that the number of women in work is at an all-time high of more than 14 million.
Nationally, this is a positive news story. However, when looking closer to the figures of Plymouth and the rest of the South West, they don’t give the region much to celebrate. The unemployment rate in Plymouth has risen by 285 people in two months, from October to December 2013, and a rise of 3,000 in the South West as a whole. Interestingly, the South West is the only region to actually record a rise in unemployment rates.
Why does the foreseeable future for Plymouth look so bleak? Could the local rates of unemployment coincide with the findings of the Centre for Cities Cities Outlook 2014 report that the rate of start-up businesses and organisations in Plymouth is in the bottom ten of cities in the country?
However, it has been stated that today’s positive figures for the rest of the UK could actually mask a more serious problem (via Sky News):
General secretary of Unison Dave Prentis said: “Sadly, today’s fall in the total number of unemployed masks the scourge of under-employment, which is growing at an alarming rate across the country.
“Too many people are stuck in minimum-wage jobs, on zero-hours contracts and part-time work when they are desperate to go full-time.”
Last March saw the first ever NHS Change Day – a movement set up by NHS staff who created pledges to improve the NHS – not just for patients, but for staff too. In 2013, pledges included a receptionist promising to smile more and a clinician trying children’s medicine to see how the taste can be improved for a better experience for the child.
The pledges demonstrate that it’s not just the big changes that can make a difference, but the lots of little changes can improve the experience of the NHS for everyone.
It is a fantastic movement which shows that leadership doesn’t always need to be from top level – from the CEOs and the Politicians. This group of people are not just waiting for something to happen; they are doing things in their power to encourage a positive change.
This year NHS Change Day will take place on 3 March and is hoping to reach a massive 500,000 pledges; and to do so it needs your help!
Pledges can be created by anyone, staff, patients or the general public. To get involved go to the NHS Change Day website where you can commit to an already existing pledge, or you can create one of your own. Below is an example of pledges made by both staff of the NHS and the general public..
“To change people’s attitudes towards disability”
“To make time to read, summarise & share Information so that we are all better informed and have a common understanding of complex & pertinent issues”
“I pledge to spend more time supporting staff with innovative ideas who want to make change happen”
“I pledge to live a healthier lifestyle by improving my diet and exercising more. To encourage my family and friends to join me”
“Putting the patient first – To spend more time with my patients to ensure they feel involved in their care.”
“I will visit patients in our hospitals who do not have any other visitors”
On Friday (13 December) we published our Position Statement, a report outlining our key areas for concern which the Plymouth Fairness Commission’s final recommendations will be based on in March 2014.
The eight key areas of concern (described in more detail below) are as follows:
1. Strengthening Communities
2. Individual and Family Wellbeing
3. Young People and Young Adults
4. Cost of Living Crisis
6. Strengthening the Local Economy
7. Discrimination and Social Exclusion
8. Implications for an Ageing Population
We are concerned about people’s perceived lack of control over their own lives and of a culture of being done to rather than doing.
Individual and Family Wellbeing
We are concerned to hear that when people need help, they may be finding it difficult to see a doctor, dentist or other health practitioner, particularly around mental health. We are also concerned about the high level of family violence and will explore the adequacy of attempts to address the unmet mental health needs and domestic violence across the city.
Young People and Young Adults
We are concerned that some children are not being given the opportunity or resources to achieve their full potential. We will look at a collaborative approach to building excellence within schools and also explore how schools and business can work together better to enable work ready young people.
Cost of Living Crisis
We have heard the message loud and clear that, like in many other cities, Plymouth residents are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. Some of the areas we will explore include the living wage, affordable credit, a sustainable food economy and co-operative ways to pay less for household basics
We consider good quality housing to be a basic right for people living in Plymouth. We have heard about the poor state of some of our private sector housing and how many people are scared of reporting irresponsible landlords for fear of being evicted. We will explore different ways to improve standards in the private rented market, models of reasonable rent and access to independent housing advice and legal representation.
Strengthening the Local Economy
We are concerned about the future for local business, in particular micro, small and medium enterprises. We will explore a fairer system for local procurement and look at how we can strengthen the sustainability of the local economy, keeping more money generated within the economy circulating locally.
Discrimination and Social Exclusion
We are concerned about the personal impact that discrimination and social exclusion is having on those affected, as well as the impact this is no doubt having on the city. We will look at ways of developing a stronger culture of kindness, respect and empathy, with the development of a city culture where people are encouraged and enabled to give their time, skills and support to help meet the needs of others across the city.
Implications for an Ageing Population
We have heard that Plymouth’s ageing population will grow very significantly over the coming decades and this brings with it challenges to ensure our older people are included and supported, and ensure the care they require is available
We will now be focusing on these areas in much more detail for the next three months, using methods such as best practice reviews, select committees, reviews of other Fairness Commission’s findings and local discussions with key stakeholders.
The Plymouth Fairness Commission’s final recommendations will be announced in March 2014 and will be presented to city leaders with a view to them implementing these across the city.
We are already starting to have an impact in the city with responses from the Police, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth University and Plymouth Community Homes – all of which can be found here on our website.
Last night we held “A Conversation About Race..” – a Listening Event with BME groups in Plymouth. It proved to be a very emotional two hours where we were told of individual stories of racism that people have encoutered in the city.
We heard of people being spat at in the street, comments made from young children and harassment from neighbours who want to drive their black neighbour out of her home. We were also told of incidents where young black people have wanted to bleach their skin and iron their hair. One of the things that came up, was the small things that happen on a day to day basis where the lines are blurred and some people don’t always realise that they are being racist and actually really hurting someone.
A white man spoke to us about his black grandchild – she asked him if it was okay for her to stare back at all of the people who stared at her as they both walked through town. It’s heartbreaking for a young child to have noticed that.
It was also said that their voices are not heard. There was a much better situation in Plymouth 20+ years ago than there is now, things seem to have gone backwards. This is a similar situation to what we heard from our LGBT event and also similar is the feeling that there is a lack of reporting incidents, because of a lack of trust in the system into actually doing something about it.
“Because I’m white people think it’s okay to share racist comments with me. It’s not. I try to challenge it as much as I can, but if I did every time I heard it… It’s tiring for me, so what must it be like to actually live it?”
On Friday we released our Summer of Listening report which gave details into what is perceived as fair and unfair in Plymouth by its residents. It can be found here on our website.
Throughout the Summer of Listening, commissioners did just that – listened. They listened to people across the city who may not have otherwise had a chance to have their say by using a number of methods of collecting information. This included satellite meetings with community groups, walkabouts, street surveys, e-surveys, select committees and listening events. The report not only states what people found to be unfair about the city, but also listened to what was perceived to be fair.
The findings in this report will be used to shape the final recommendations which will be presented in March 2014, not just to the council, but to leaders all across the city.
A summary of the issues that the report found to be unfair:
Financial issues including the cost of living, Housing: lack of affordable homes and lack of suitable housing, Education: including the differences in quality of provision, the allocation system, the 11+ and a difference in attainment by area, Lack of support for those with mental health issues, Cost of public transport, Access to healthcare and dentistry, Affordable healthy food, Discrimination amongst race, disabilities and LGBT groups, alcohol and drug related abusive and anti-social behaviour, Barriers to involvement in community activities, Health inequalities and obesity, High cost and availability of parking in the city centre, Lack of employment opportunities for young people, Barriers to successful engagement in apprenticeship schemes, Absence on major employers in the city, Number of closed shops in the city centre, Large number of national chains at the expense of local shops and Small businesses lacking the ability to influence city policy
A summary of the issues that the report found to be fair:
Education: Anti bullying, equality of access and good standard of teaching, Access to adult learning, Social housing: allocation and investment in new build properties, Good healthcare provision, Citizen engagement opportunities, Abusive and anti-social behaviour issues are dealt with promptly by police of PCSOs, Current mix of shops meet local needs, Parking: acceptable costs and appropriate number of spaces, Park and ride facilities and Opportunities for employment and skills development
The next step is for the Plymouth Fairness Commission to release its Interim Report/Position Statement which will highlight the key areas of concern which will be taken from the Summer of Listening report.
We really have a lot to learn from Islington Fairness Commission. More than two years on from completing its final recommendations the commission is staying true to its word and heping to fight for fairness in the area.
Their first recommendation is “No-one in Islington should do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on.” This has been widely supported by Islington Fairness Commission by encouraging businesses to become Living Wage Employers which is something that Islington Council has supported, becoming the joint first Local Authority to gain accreditation as a London Living Wage employer in 2012.
The standard has been set high and here in Plymouth we will make sure that we follow the level of commitment that we have seen from Isligngton.