Fortunately the trains were still running to Devon on Sunday despite the snow on the ground as I left the house. Off to spend a morning with Devon County Council.
I was staying in Topsham overnight. A marvelous small town on the estuary of the River Exe, just outside Exeter. The sort of place which makes England the very special country it is. Charming quirky houses set along the estuary banks. Ships and barges moored and some fantastic old Inns. A pint of Devon ale and my Sunday roast beef and I was in clover, as they say. And I even got to Palm Sunday evensong in the cathedral, one of England’s finest. I sat near the magnificent Bishop's Throne and had fantasies about sitting there in a Mitre.
But it was work and I and my ACEVO Solutions Director John Gillespie had an early Monday morning meeting with the Chief Executive and his Directors team. Devon is a forward thinking council. They are developing their strategic approach for reshaping services from 2015. They are clear on the implications of the financial framework for councils over the next 7 years. It’s incredibly tight but as Phil Norrey, the CEO pointed out, between the County Council and the local health service they have multi-million pound budgets. A huge challenge and therefore a time for a strategic rethink and looking at new ideas and approaches. And that is where the third sector comes in and why we were there to challenge them to new thinking on how to use our sector.
The old local councils' approach to the sector has been one of “support" and general non intervention. I argued we need a more aggressively strategic approach. One based on commissioning outcomes and therefore helping the sector to be part of new structures and approaches. I believe they can play a big role in helping develop consortia. We have done this with other councils (as I blogged recently on Knowsley).
We had a good discussion. I particularly liked the comments of the County Treasurer who was clear on the need to stop thinking of the elderly as a burden and a problem but think of them as an asset. She is right. Yes, we have growing numbers of frail elderly but also growing numbers of elderly who are up and running and organising and volunteering and making huge contributions. They are the backbone of many rural communities. Let's use that asset.
They have a very high proportion of elderly residents so they are thinking about how to use their new powers on public health and the potential for integrated services across social care and health.
We are taking these discussions forward. We have some ideas about potential for more work which we will explore, but I have a feeling we will do some interesting thing in Devon!
Then it was back to the great but cold metropolis, via a guided tour of the Cathedral. We have our major health conference tomorrow, with Norman Lamb and I need to prepare my speech.
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