Sunday, August 13, 2006

Write a letter-increase the pressure

In March 2005 I led the fight against the proposed water and sewerage charges by asking local people to sign a petition to protest against this ill thought out ‘tap tax’.
In North Down we had some 12,000 signatures from residents who said NO. It was interesting to listen to some of the comments from folk who signed the petition and it is a pity the then Minister John Speller MP could not hear them.

However, as the leading Ulster Unionist keeping up the pressure on the government over the controversial proposed water and sewerage charges, which are due to be introduced next April. I am encouraging everyone to support the public letter writing campaign which North Down proposed some months ago. I understand that the Minister, we now have, David Cairns, has been heard to comment, - ‘Not another letter from North Down’. And I would suggest, why not indeed.

I would encourage every council area to take up the challenge, spend a few pence on a stamp and let your opposition be known.

I reject the Minister’s case that the Treasury could not be expected to pay for the massive expenditure necessary to bring a worn out and leaking infrastructure up to date. What has the Treasury done with 30 years of money we have been paying into; it certainly was not the water system.

One final thought, have you ever sat behind a Water Service van at traffic lights and read the slogan on the back of the van which states ‘Water is precious – don’t waste it’. Three guesses as to the biggest wasters of water are? Whose system leaks the most? Would it be the Water Service?

Neighbourhood Watch Scheme Set Up

I have been accredited and appointed as the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme co-ordinator for an innovative new Neighbourhood Watch scheme which has just been set up covering about 100 houses in the Bangor West area. The essence of the scheme is that neighbours will look out for each other keep an eye on each others property and keep a watch for any unusual activity in the area. The scheme has the full and active support of PSNI.

At the recent inauguration of the scheme I told those present, I had been approached by a number of local residents about how to improve security in our homes. The outcome was that I raised this with our local community beat officer who suggested the establishment of Neighbourhood Watch.

At the meeting the Crime Prevention Officer for Bangor outlined the practical steps which people could take to improve security in their homes. She said that Neighbourhood Watch involved local people in looking out for each other and reporting any unusual activity in the area to the scheme co-ordinator or direct to the PSNI. It was definitely not a “vigilante” scheme and would operate on the basis of close co-operation between local people and the Police.

I was delighted with the number of local residents who attended the meeting, and I hope to set up a small committee to oversee the scheme and issue regular news sheets in conjunction with PSNI. While there could never be absolute guarantees about security I am sure that with the co-operation of all concerned the Neighbourhood Watch scheme would hopefully help to prevent crime and make the area a safer one.

The Banford Review of Mental Health


The Bamford Review of Mental Health is a draft report which sets out it's vision of the services and supports that are needed for older people with mental health difficulties and/or dementia in Northern Ireland for the next 15 - 20 years. It has been endorsed by a steering committee which has taken into account over two years work by the Dementia and Mental Issues of Older People Expert Working Group Working Committee convened by Praxis Care Group.

The Minister for Health in Northern Ireland Paul Goggins, has indicated that the Bamford Review of Mental Health would be a catalyst for change.

In my mind the mental health service in Northern Ireland has been starved of funds for years and all during this period Trusts have worked valiantly to do the very best they could while, to put it simply being short changed.

It is a fact that people in Northern Ireland with mental health difficulties have the lowest employment rate of all disabled people. Also more than a third of Incapacity Benefit claimants have a mental or behavioural disorder. There is a prevalence of mental health problems which is 24% among women and 17% among men; this is 20% higher than the rates for England and Scotland.

The Bamford Review of Mental Health must be welcomed, as it will carry out an independent review of law, policy and service provision. It will make recommendations regarding the future policy, strategy, service priorities and legislation, to reflect the needs of users and carers. For example, the need for collaborative working among all relevant stakeholders both within and beyond the health and personal social services sector, to name but one issue, must be taken into account.

The Bamford Review, will have a new priority in moving forward, it will be given to promoting positive mental health and making a real and meaningful difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities or mental health needs, as well, and this is very important, to their carers and families.

Unfortunately as with any review, action taken will not happen next week or next month and the earliest possible date and specific targets for improvement will probably be from 2007-2008. Whatever the date set, the Bamford Review must not be lost in the mists of time, for too long Trusts have struggled with underinvestment within this area of service and to be blunt it has been a disgrace the under funding which has taken place. I would insist that the necessary funding to reform, modernise and deliver along with a meaningful capital investment programme for future services must happen.