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Supporting Independence

Jul 10

This morning I visited the Mildmay Centre; one of three locality bases providing day services for adults with learning disabilities in Ilford.

The centre is a great example of inclusiveness and provides a very person centre approach; focusing on the needs of the individual. Each service user has an individual support plan with targets.The service provides a great support network for parents working very closely with them to support their family members at home and work on achieving their targets.

Service users are supported to access activities in the community like bowling and using public transport with the aim of developing their independence and relationships. Emphasis on accessing community facilities to raise confidence is an excellent approach and supports integration and raises awareness.

I was really interested to know that the service operates a challenge group summer work experience scheme for 15-18 year olds during August to deliver supervised scheduled activities in sport, media and drama to service users.

There are also opportunities for community study for medical students; raising awareness about the needs of people who have learning disabilities and sharing good practice. Keep up the good work!

Service to Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the London Bombings

Jul 07

On this day ten years ago London was rocked by a horrific terrorist act which saw 52 people lose their lives. Today I was honoured to join relatives, survivors, the emergency services, senior Politicians and the Duke of York at a service to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the London Bombings at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The service brought together the relatives of those who died as well as the survivors and officials who played a part on the day and a minute’s silence was observed. As we stood with heads bowed pink, red and white petals fluttered down from the, “Whispering Gallery”, in a powerful act of remembrance of the 52 murdered.

The names of all who died were read aloud. Four candles were brought to the altar, carried by individuals caught in the carnage of that day. On each was written the location of the bombings seared into the public consciousness: Aldgate, Tavistock Square, Edgware Road and Russell Square/King’s Cross.  Four “reflections” on the blast sites were also read during the service.

Our resolve must remain strong and united in the fight against terrorism.

Showing Support and Respect

Jun 29

Sunday 28 June 2015 : Armed Forces Day Celebration

On Armed Forces Day we celebrate our brave servicemen and women who work so hard to keep our country safe.

I attended the celebration with the Redbridge community which was out in force on Sunday. We showed our support and respect for those men and women who commit themselves to defending our hard-fought liberties each year. The Band of Scots Guards led an impressive parade of veterans, soldiers and cadets.

As a community we must ensure that those who stepped forward to fight for us are remembered and shown the respect and support that they deserve. It is up to us to highlight to each passing generation how vital these battles and struggles were and are in helping us to live life as we do today. What is clear to me is that now more than ever we need to remain cohesive and strong against those who seek to destroy society as we know it.

Armed forces Day 28 June

Pride 2015

Jun 24

This weekend marks Pride in London, one of the biggest LGBT+ celebrations in the world.  I’ve said many times how proud I am that Redbridge is such a hugely diverse Borough, whether that be the places we were born, the religions we follow, or our sexualities and genders.

Redbridge is a place for everybody and we’ll be flying the rainbow flag from the Town Hall on Saturday to mark the day. For too long throughout history people have been separated by their differences, Pride offers a chance to celebrate them and is something we should all be supportive of.

Youth Offending and Targeted Prevention

Jun 24

On Tuesday 23 June, I visited the Youth Offending and Targeted Prevention team. This service operates as a multi-agency partnership and provides statutory supervision for young people aged 10-17 in the youth justice system. The team also works with vulnerable children and young people aged 8-17 who are at risk of involvement in crime.

This vital service works with young offenders to challenge their attitudes and behaviour and find constructive ways of avoiding further involvement in crime are given. The young people and their families are also given support.

The multi-agency partnership arrangements allow for all parties to be involved and ensure that a seamless approach is provided.

In addition to the situations the young people find themselves in there are other issues that need to be considered and worked through, such as family problems, mental health, drugs and alcohol also need to be addressed. What was really positive was the holistic approach of working with a number of programmes operating to help address the issues faced.

The allotment project is a good example of a simple project that helps with focus and enables the young people to see the “fruits” of their hard work and effort.  Sport is also encouraged. These are great activities that provide an outlet for anger and stress. Early intervention truly helps in the long term.

Supporting Families

Jun 12

A visit to the Early Intervention and Family Support Service provided me with an insight into how the Council works to strengthen and empower families to find resolutions to issues they are facing. The service has a number of projects including parenting and family support, Children and Families and the Missing Children’s Team. supporting families

It really is a support service with a big focus on prevention. Staff work closely with communities, families, children and young people to prevent the problems they are facing escalating to crisis point and help to avoid statutory social care intervention. Work also takes place with families that have had previous social care involvement in a move to step down involvement so they can sustain the improvements in their lives.

The service is holistic and is well linked in with agencies like the MASH who I visited earlier in the month. The service is exemplary and was awarded “outstanding by Ofsted” and has received very positive feedback from service users who have turned their lives around for the better. Another achievement for the service was the recent award of a £250,000 grant to support a domestic violence hub.

How we support and educate families is so important to ensure future generations are happy and healthy. Prevention through innovation is key and the early intervention and family support service are leading the way on this. I look forward to hearing more and will let you know about the progress on their projects.

Upwards and Onwards

Jun 12

Today I was invited to speak at the graduation ceremony for year 6 Al – Noor students, held at the Albert Road Islamic Centre.

The students are leaving their much-loved school and were given a superb send off. They received achievement awards from the Mayor, Cllr Barbara White and we were treated to a fantastic performance of Hansel and Gretel. The students also shared their school memories. It was certainly a special evening.

The school has provided these fine young men and women with a solid foundation in a supportive and encouraging environment. It was clear to see that these youngsters are inspired and looking forward with excitement to their next important steps in life.

Leader speaking at Al noor school graduation

Realising our aspirations

Jun 10

Today I had the pleasure and privilege of talking with Year 10 students at Bancroft’s School.  I was kindly invited to talk to the students during their assembly and give them encouragement and advice about how to reach their potential.  I was impressed with their enthusiasm and their attentiveness and enjoyed my visit thoroughly.

It is so important that our younger generations aspire to achieve their full potential and grab opportunities presented to them with both hands. Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard!

Keeping the vulnerable safe from harm

Jun 04

I was fortunate to be able to spend time with one of our most important front line services this week – The Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

The remit of the MASH is to bring together agencies (and their information) in order to identify risks to children at the earliest possible point and respond with the most effective interventions. This enables agencies to make the best decisions and keep children safe.

Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub

The phrase ‘unsung heroes’ is often overused, but in this case it is probably an understatement. The team of 16 with the involvement and assistance of the police screen over 300 cases a week. These high volumes of caseload were attributed to the impacts of welfare reform resulting in increased stresses and strains on households, and sadly leading to an increase in issues such as homelessness and domestic abuse.

What struck me most during my visit? Hard work, dedication and team spirit shown by all the staff; absolutely essential when working with such sensitive issues. I found the visit really informative and felt the service to be a shining example of the positive outcomes that can be achieved through multi agency working.

A leaner Council but still ambitious for the future

Jan 19

Last week Full Council agreed a report which made public the details of a major senior management review which has been carried out over the last few months.

Managing changes to our services

We face an unprecedented level of cuts imposed by the Coalition government which will see our Government grants slashed by £100m by 2018. This leaves us with a budget shortfall of £70m over the next few years. We have already found some savings by making the Council more efficient and cutting out waste. This level of cuts however, combined with rising demand for services such as refuse collection  and social care, has left the Council with a  huge and growing hole in its finances.

The report announced the reduction of management posts within the Council by a third in order to save £5m. My Cabinet and I will be working closely with the Council’s leadership team to make sure that the people in the posts that remain have the right skills the Council needs to deliver 21st century services which match up to local needs and aspiration.

Challenges we face

The challenge is so severe, that we have to rethink the way we do business from the ground up. This means making sure the Council is focusing on the most pressing local priorities, building a smaller more responsive organisation – one that may ultimately have to stop delivering some valued local services. This is the reality of the severity of the cuts being imposed on us as a Council, as public spending is cut to levels not seen since early in the last century.

We however remain ambitious and focused on delivering for our residents, seeking to support them and provide good quality services which can help them meet their aspirations.

Like many of the people these changes will affect, I share a firm commitment to public service. But we need to adapt to a new public sector landscape that may not be of our choosing but is one where locally we need to prioritise frontline services, support the aspirations of our residents and ensure that those who are most vulnerable are not cast adrift.

Changes we need to make

To reflect this, we’re changing the housing service so that it has a stronger focus on housing growth, building the affordable stock Redbridge needs for local families and so that it works more closely with the Benefits and Payments team on difficult and complex welfare issues. And at a time of crisis, making the right decisions couldn’t matter more which is why we’re adding a Chief Strategy Officer post to keep Council activity rooted in the priorities of local communities and closely monitor services of top concern for residents like customer services and complaints.

However, it’s impossible to pretend that these changes won’t hurt – they will. Neither can I promise that more difficult decisions don’t lie ahead – they do. But I am confident that these changes together with the efforts made to protect front line services will create a modern Council that helps residents and their families meet their aspirations and makes Redbridge a fairer, more equitable place to live.