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Welcome to High Peak Liberal Democrats!

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

The United Kingdom has a proud tradition of fairness. Many of the most fundamental components of our modern society were created by Liberals, such as the introduction of state pensions, unemployment benefits, health insurance and free secondary education.It is now hard to imagine what this country would be like without those things, but when Liberals introduced them they were regarded as radical ideas that threatened the status quo. More recently Liberal Democrats have continued to challenge both Labour and the Conservatives on crucial matters such as the invasion of Iraq and "plans" (using the term loosely) for a Hard Brexit, that even on the Government's own figures will incur long-lasting damange to the British economy.

But today's Liberal Democrats are much more than just a collection of anti-Brexit campaigners. We want to help make this country into a stronger, fairer society. The Liberal Democrats, through the work of MPs such as Lynn Featherstone, Danny Alexander, Stephen Webb and David Laws were able to introduce Same-sex Marriages, greatly raised Income Tax thresolds (freeing many of our least well-paid workers from paying Income Tax), pension reforms and free, nutritious school meals for all infant school pupils and a Pupil Premium to provide targeted help to ensure children from poorer families aren't held back.

The Liberal Democrats are unafraid to champion less fashionable causes. We speak up for those who who struggle to have their voice heard. Norman Lamb has campaigned for many years for mental health funding to be increased. Sadly the Conservative government too often selects mental health facilities as the first to be cut back, as has happened to Spencer Ward in Buxton's Cavendish Hospital this year. Only the Liberal Democrats are honest enough to admit that providing the NHS we need will mean that we have to pay a bit more in tax to fund it.

If you want to help make Britain a fairer, more tolerant and more successful society, please join us. We are fighting to keep Britain in the EU which helps ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for us and our children. We are fighting to ensure proper, sustainable funding for the NHS. We are fighting homelessness and believe nobody should have to sleep rough.

The Constituency Party of the High Peak Liberal Democrats is managed by an Executive Committee which is elected annually. It manages the affairs of the party within the High Peak.

The Executive consists of a Constituency President, Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary, Data Officer and Ordinary members. Meetings are held regularly. Please contact the secretary at secretary@highpeaklibdems.org.uk for more information.

We are one of the six counties which make up the East Midlands Region of the Liberal Democrats, which oversees matters such as the selection of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.

In common with all constituencies of the Liberal Democrat Party we follow national policies which are voted on at conference, taking our lead from the party headquarters at Cowley Street in London.

Recent updates

  • Air Pollution impact (Royal College of Physicians)
    Article: Mar 14, 2019

    Spring conference Motion F8 [See Conference Extra Page 11]

    14:55pm Saturday 16th March, York Conference

    Cleaning Up the Air We Breathe: How to Tackle Road Pollution

  • The Greener Jobs Alliance logo (http://www.greenerjobsalliance.co.uk)
    Article: Mar 14, 2019

    The Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA) has been formed as a partnership body inclusive of trade unions, student organisations, campaigning groups and a policy think tank. It campaigns around the issue of jobs and the skills needed to transition to a low-carbon economy. The founding members of the GJA are the University and College Union, Trades Union Congress, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, National Union of Students, People & Planet, and the Institute of Public Policy Research.

  • Greener Jobs Alliance launch (http://www.greenerjobsalliance.co.uk/)
    Article: Mar 14, 2019

    Air Pollution - all in a day's work?

    On Wednesday 6 February 2019, the Trade Union Clean Air Network (TUCAN)¹ was launched. The event took place at the Head Office of the International Transport Workers (ITF) in London. It was attended by a wide range of trades unions and supporting organisations including Client Earth, British Lung Foundation and the London Sustainability Exchange. The meeting discussed the Trade Union Clean Air Network Charter that has been drawn up to promote a trade union voice on this public health emergency.

  • Gas Flares (GreenLibDems.org.uk)
    Article: Mar 14, 2019
    By Julian Hawkins

    Left, Right or Small?

    I have seen a number of opinion pieces in various forums recently arguing that capitalism is the root of all our environmental ills, and that we urgently need to adopt left wing policies (state socialism and/or third way approaches) to solve the threat of global warming. Saving the world clearly requires us to adopt the most effective policies possible. So, the question is: whether large-scale corporate capitalism needs to be replaced by state socialism to stop global warming?

  • GLD Conference 2018 - Ed Davey enjoying a well earned cuppa (KNDaws)
    Article: Mar 14, 2019

    See GLD Nottingham Conference webpage here

    (Also see Ed Davey's speech to the 2018 LibDem Southport conference here

    [Test link to footnotes ]

    Introduced by Louise Harris

    Sir Ed Davey was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2012 to 2015 in the Coalition Government.

    Ed: Its really good to be here, thank you for inviting me, Nottingham is my home city, so its nice to come back.

    What I thought I'd do is not just give you a full history of Liberal Democracy, but talk about the coalition, and where we need to go from here, seeing the future in an immediate historical perspective

    I joined the Liberal Democrats in 1989, and the reason I did was mainly about commitment to the environment.

    Its good to see Green Liberal Democrats as strong as ever, even stronger.

    The coalition, (people in the party often think 'oo that's difficult', failing to realise that we did some fantastic things in loads of areas: pupil premium, education, tax allowance, social care, mental health, a very long list.

    I also think the environment is very much in that stellar list, particularly on renewable power, but on a whole rainbow of things too.
    Stuff that Vince did on electric vehicles, things Norman Baker did at Transport on local transport hubs, the plastic bag tax ...

    I'm going to talk about what I did in the department of energy and climate change because its what I know best.

    I'm going to talk about two big examples, one domestic, and one international, related to climate change.

    But please if you want to ask about other things,both the successes and the less successful things, I'm very happy to talk about them.

    On the successful things which I won't cover- district heating, which we pushed ahead with across the country.

    We launched the country's first ever community energy strategy.
    We did stuff on fuel poverty that is not recognised.
    Stuff on regulations on energy efficiency which has survived the Tory cuts, more or less.
    Lots of little projects which were incredibly significant in taking the green agenda forwards.

    The things that are big when you think about the climate change agenda is really what we were doing on electricity.

    On climate change, you think about electricity, power, heat and transport.
    When you look at how you're going to reduce greenhouse gases over a 20 30 40 year period, most people believe you have to start with power.

    The reasons are :
    A) that is technically ahead of the other technologies
    B) Its physically easier because you're dealing with a small number of plants, three or four hundred power plants you're trying to replace or reinvent, rather than heating systems in 26 million properties, or 30 million vehicles.

    So its easier to do, but even more importantly, if you green power, part of the solutions for transport and heating will be electric, but they're not green if the electricity isn't green, so you've got to start with getting electricity green.

    If you do that then decarbonising heat and transport becomes a lot easier.

    That's why we, when we got to power in 2010 focussed so hard on the power sector. It made sense, you could move fast, it was an enabler for years ahead.

    In the big picture we quadrupled renewable power in this country, Liberal Democrats did.
    Stuff we did in the coalition, contracts that we signed, (which the Tories couldn't get out of, for green power stations which are being built now), that was us.

    Obviously you know statistics: when you're starting from a low base its easy to quadruple starting from a lower base - I get that - nevertheless it was a massive increase in a relatively short time.

    It was everything from solar to biomass, to onshore wind, to offshore wind, and some tidal, a lot of stuff in that piece
    of getting CO2 emissions down rapidly, as well as greening our electricity system.

    A long long way to go, but I think our fundamental success was in greening electricity.

    I'm just going to take off my sock, because this is a present from Greenpeace with wind turbines on. The reason Greenpeace gave me this sock was because of all the stuff we did on green electricity, the most significant was what we did with offshore wind. Because we've got offshore wind to a point in this country, and in the world, and in history, where offshore wind is now going to be a major low carbon source of power.

    Now we weren't the first ones to think of this, indeed Ed Milliband did some good stuff on offshore wind in his time as Climate Change Secretary.

    However, the really big decisions in changing the way we funded offshore wind farms, and industrialising offshore wind to get the prices down, so we can shut the Daily Mail up, and offshore wind become one of the cheapest form of electricity, those decisions taken by Chris Huhne and myself as Liberal Democrats.

    The main change was to change the way we subsidised renewable power to a new form called 'contracts for difference', the main impact of that was that it enabled competition to come in, to push the price down, to reduce the amount of subsidy much more quickly.

    We created auctions where companies were competing for the right to get a contract of difference for renewable subsidy.

    That created a massive stimulation innovation, in the supply chain, it pushed the price down.

    So the second auction of for contracts for difference, which happened in October 2017, (would have happened earlier if we'd been in charge), under the model which we put in place, (not a Tory model, a Liberal Democrat model), the price of offshore wind for a farm opening early next decade is going to be basically as cheap as gas.

    That is a historically dramatic reduction in the price of electricity in a relatively short period of time. The historic significance is that it means rather that the Daily Telegraph and the Times and the Mail and the rest of them saying the price of green power is expensive, they can no longer say that, and that is a dramatic shift.

    Now were seeing offshore wind farms really take off, even the Tories are now having to realise that their best way of replacing old coal stations as they come off, old nuclear power stations as they come off, is offshore wind.

    One of the big decisions which I personally had to make was we had a pot of money I spent a year negotiating with George Osborne on, a pot of money which is basically money that goes on peoples' bills to pay for these contracts of difference.

    I had to decide how much of that to put into the first stage.

    The submission form civil servants had 3 options.

    The least ambitious option was giving less of these subsidies up front, would have meant we got one or two wind farms but nothing else, and the industry would have gone ' "well if that's what we can do we'll go away".

    The second one would have got a few more wind farms up but not a supply chain.

    The supply chain is really important, building turbines, building the nacelles that go on top of the wind towers, that critical supply chain, if we'd gone for the 2nd option which is what the Tories wanted, we'd have got no supply chain, we'd have got some wind farms but the future would not have been secured.

    By putting a lot of money in this first round (which I got criticised by the national audit office but they were wrong and I was right) meant that we got Siemens to invest in Kingston on Hull. In Kingston on Hull they are now building a factory which will produce the wind turbines and blades for offshore wind farms for the future.

    That is reviving a city which was in a hundred year decline (pretty good side effect).

    This confirms Britain as the leader in in the world offshore wind, and has helped get the price of offshore wind down, thus defeating the Tories and the climate change deniers and right wing press, that means that offshore wind is here to stay.

    Take nothing away from the history of Liberal Democrats and what we've done in decarbonising.

    We have in the first stage of decarbonising electricity managed to get probably the most available and most high volume form of green energy, offshore wind, away, so its here to stay.

    Clearly we need more onshore wind, As Secretary State I was in daily battles with Eric Pickles (a man on the dark side).

    We were winning while in coalition, but since then they've stopped onshore wind - absolutely crazy!

    Because onshore wind is now the probably cheapest form of energy in this country.

    Tidal lagoons only came on my desk relatively late on, after the Severn barrage (which I'm very much against).

    But tidal lagoons I think they are a strong existing technology, so less risk. You could probably get 10% of Britain's total power needs from tidal lagoons, and of course they're predictable and work very well in a system with wind and solar.

    We pushed that very hard.
    We were never going to get across the line because these things take years, a long time in policy terms, we were up against Tories and my own department, one or two civil servants did not want to do tidal.

    We got to a point where to Tories even put it in their manifesto which was staggering.

    Although they haven't made a decision on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon yet, it is in the debate now.

    So the next really big form of renewable electricity is still being debated, tidal lagoons, and that would not being debated if we hadn't had Liberal Democrats in charge to push it, no other idiot was going to push it: this idiot and Liberal Democrats were pushing it.

    We had a huge role to play in renewable energy which was a big thing.

    We could talk about lots of other things.

    There's lots more on the domestic agenda we could talk about: energy efficiency, reducing energy demand, storage, consumer side, carbon capture storage, nuclear, fracking, whatever you like; but the really big story of achievement is offshore wind.

    One thing that slightly irritates me in discussions in the party is everyone talks of the negatives not the positives … and offshore wind is a massive positive for us, so let's bloody talk about it.
    I think of historic significance

    Let's talk of the role we played, Chris Huhne first, and then myself, in international climate change talks

    Don't forget we could be perfect in this country, we could be the best in the world, we could get 2 ½ percent of global greenhouse emissions down, but we still fry, and the earth is still submerged.

    Domestic stuff great, it can help internationally, we can export that, and help other people.

    But you've actually got to get out there at the EU, at the UN, with bilaterals, relationships with countries like China and India, to promote the climate change idea / agenda

    Chris and I worked at all those levels.

    I think the most important was the EU, and that's one of the reasons why Brexit is a complete and utter disaster for environment.

    Let me tell you a story of EU climate diplomacy as I experienced it ...

    When I became Secretary of State in February 2012 and I looked around the energy council at Brussels, it was pretty clear that of the six big states: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland that none of those six besides ourselves was likely to really push the climate change agenda, for lots of domestic political reasons in their own countries.

    Poland primarily because they want to burn as much coal as they can possibly burn, Germany because of their coalition ….

    So it was clear to me if you were going to get climate change agenda pushed really hard on EU level, (which was critical for the world agenda because the EU are out there above China and the US in particular), Britain had to take the lead.

    If your want anything done at Brussels you have to form coalitions, coalitions of member states, countries that think like you, that share the objective.

    So I set up something called the green growth group.
    We got a number of member states to come for dinners at the UK residency at Brussels, we got our officials together to discuss how we as member states who wanted to take action on climate change at the European level, could work together to make that happen.

    Knowing that we have opponents in industry, knowing we had opponents around the table from places like Poland, and how we going to win those debates.

    Round the table we got Germany, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the Scandis, Slovenia, a number of other countries, we started off with about nine of us, grew to about twelve.

    We had about 80% of the votes. We knew if we could agree we could take it to the council and get a really ambitious agreement.

    The problem was the Germans wanted to repeat the agreement we had in 2020, and update it to 2030 (the agreement reached in 2008 between Merkel and Blair, renewable targets, energy efficiency targets, and greenhouse gas targets for 2020; and the EU is going to meet those targets).

    But the decision in our time was EU targets for 2030.

    You need targets a long way off so that industry can prepare and invest to meet those targets.

    So the real debate was what targets was Europe going to adopt for 2030 and take to the UN Paris summit, to get others to move globally, that was a real issue.

    The problem was Germany wanted more renewable targets - the Tories weren't going to accept that.

    Moreover eastern Europe wanted something with nuclear power as their low carbon electricity

    Knowing that the winning coalition had to bring those sides together, I pushed for a technology neutral target for how you did it, as long as you did it.

    My focus was being much more ambitious on the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions we were going to cut.

    That's what matters for the climate, for the environment, for the planet, how much greenhouse gas emissions you get, how quickly you cut them.

    That's what we discussed at the UN, you never discuss technology, you discuss greenhouse gas emissions, the output.

    I decided we'd go really big on that, I tried to persuade the Tories that we should go for a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 2030.

    That was on the outside of the climate change act 2008 requirements
    - it already required the UK to cut our greenhouse gas emissions
    on the way to reduce them by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, but it still was a bit weak.

    I wanted an EU international treaty to make sure we were locked into the climate change act, and was a little more ambitious than that, whilst making sure other countries had to do their bit as well.

    I tried to go for 40% reductions. The Tories did not want to do this, they opposed it. Eventually we wore them down and they agreed to it, they sent an email to my office with a chain of emails, at the bottom they had emails to themselves not realising … (always be careful (classic mistake))) and in their email between themselves they said: "oh give him the 40% reduction he'll never get it".
    We got it.
    They were bloody mad.
    It was not easy.

    When I went to Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action from 2010 to 2014, when I said we were aiming at 40%, she said "ha ha you'll never get it, good luck, I hope you do"

    We got it because we organised politically at the E.U. level
    we had this coalition, we had this green growth group.

    We sat for two years amongst the people who believed in action on climate change, listening to each others positions, working out how we could get a deal together, which got the objective, but gave everyone else the ways that they could do it.

    It took a long time, about two and a half years actually to get all the climate change ambitious countries like Germany France and so on together, so we could go to the council and sideline Poland, which is what we did.

    (Although actually we worked hard with Poland because I don't believe in a politics which is just hostile. (So by the end of the negotiations with Poland I knew the inside leg measurement of the aunt of the climate change minister - you had to get to know them very well to be able to persuade them ) ).

    The point I want to make is that at Europe, if you're there, if you're ambitious and you work with other countries doing real politics, like we do in councils, parliament and so on, you can get ambitious things.

    The heads of government, the European council in October 2014, signed a deal where the EU was committed to 40% reductions in in greenhouse gases by 2030.

    That didn't get any headlines - you won't be surprised to know the British press weren't interested in anything on Climate Change at a European level linked with the Liberal Democrats, a combination they didn't want to report, and so they didn't.

    We got one piece in the Guardian on what was actually the most significant EU deal on climate change ever.

    But the rest of the world noticed, they were very surprised at the level of ambition.

    A month after the EU heads of state signed that deal, the US and China did a joint deal saying they would be more ambitious.

    And all that was the year before Paris.

    So you had a glide into Paris, to the climate change summit in Paris.

    You've got to give huge amounts of credit to Obama, huge amounts of credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, you've got to give huge amounts of credit to President Xi Jinping of China..

    But also the E.U. and the Liberal Democrats in the UK at the EU table.

    So you know, the success at Paris, (we weren't there, it was after the coalition), that would not have happened if the Liberal Democrats hadn't been in coalition.
    I'm absolutely sure of that.

    So whether its on wind turbines, or whether its on EU and climate change agreements, that is what the Liberal Democrats have achieved.

    And we wouldn't have achieved that if we didn't have Liberal Democrats and Green Liberal Democrats talking about it and campaigning on it and making it a high priority in the party, which we did.

    It's a history I think we should be proud of

    Now where do we go from here?

    The Tories have rowed back on some of the stuff we did, of course, but they can't dismantle the power plants that we built, they cant dismantle a lot of the progress, they can't dismantle the agreements, but they've gone much weaker: we've seen a massive decline in solar growth, no onshore wind effectively, much weaker energy efficiency performance, a whole range where they've really slowed the pace of change down; we've got to campaign to quicken that up, particularly on regulations on energy efficiency on buildings, and on tidal lagoons.

    What were the challenges that we were not able to deal with?

  • Article: Mar 13, 2019

    In his Spring Statement today (Wednesday 13th March 2019) the Chancellor did not make any commitments to the funding of social care.

    Responding to the Statement, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

    "Another opportunity has passed and once again the Government has failed to deliver the funding for social care services that unpaid carers and those they support desperately need.

    "Without immediate investment in care services - as well as plans for sustainable long term funding - the pressure on families providing unpaid care is only going to increase. We know that carers are already under a lot of strain, with the vast majority of (72%) reporting poor mental health and two in five unable to take a break from their caring role in the last year.

    "Carer's Allowance, the main benefit for people caring unpaid for more than 35 hours a week, is still the lowest benefit of its kind and those who rely on this support face a never-ending struggle to make ends meet, some forgoing essentials such as food and heating. It's high time the Government made it fairer for carers and raised Carer's Allowance throughout the UK - as has already been done in Scotland.

    "The Government's upcoming Spending Review must ensure better financial support for carers and enable them to have a break. Carers have already waited over two years for the Government's Green Paper on social care so it is imperative that this too has their huge contribution to our society and the economy - worth £132 billion a year - at its heart."

  • Article: Mar 13, 2019
    Hft is calling on Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to match words with actions and provide an emergency cash injection for the social care sector in his Spring Statement, to help providers address the ongoing recruitment crisis in the sector.

    Last month, the charity published its annual Sector Pulse Check, which provides a yearly snapshot of the financial health of the social care sector. The report warned that 80% of providers cited the "enforced low pay model" - where local authorities commission fees at the lowest wage level possible - as the biggest challenge for recruiting new staff. As a result, 63% of providers reported increases in agency fee spend, and that it was now a major financial pressure (a fifty percentage-point increase from the 2017/18 survey).

    Robert Longley-Cook, Chief Executive of Hft, commented:

    "The government was right to finally acknowledge that there is an ongoing recruitment crisis plaguing the social care sector. We welcome the fact that the government is highlighting that a career in social care can be a varied and fulfilling one.However, this does not solve the root of the problem. Cuts to local authority budgets, combined with an enforced low pay model of fee setting, have tied the hands of providers seeking to pay their staff a competitive wage. This has created a vicious circle of high staff turnover, leading to an increased dependency on agency staff, resulting in increased wage bills and a disruption of quality and continuity of care.

    Increased use of agency staff is a short-term fix to a long-term problem. As providers spend more on filling their rotas, they are unable to invest in the long-term future of our services, despite providers seeing increased demand across the sector.The national recruitment campaign only looks to address the desirability of a career in social care. However, for as long as social care is on an enforced low pay model, we will be unable to attract the highly motivated staff we need to deliver high-quality, person-centred support. We therefore call on the Chancellor to match the government's words with actions, and provide the sector with additional funding to help us invest in the future of services, and reward our hardworking staff for all that they do in supporting some of the most vulnerable adults in society."

    Since February 2016, Hft has run the It Doesn't' Add Up campaign to raise awareness of the funding pressures facing the social care sector. For more information, visit: www.hft.org.uk/shortfall

  • Article: Mar 13, 2019

    Disabled pensioners will no longer face "unnecessary" repeat assessments to continue receiving benefits, the work and pensions secretary has announced. From spring, 270,000 people in Britain will not have personal independence payments (PIPs) regularly reviewed.

    But a disability group said millions of younger people would "still be stuck in a failing system". Amber Rudd also plans to increase a government target for getting a million more disabled people into work by 2027.

    In a speech on last Tuesday to the disability charity Scope, Ms Rudd said her blind father's experience influenced her plans to "level the terrain" for disabled people. "My father became blind in 1981. For 36 years his blindness was a normal part of my family's life. Of my life," she said. "Disabled pensioners have paid into our system for their whole lives and deserve the full support of the state when they need it most."

    Under the current system, disabled people's benefits under the PIP system require regular reviews, annually or every few years, with less severe or temporary disabilities checked more frequently. Figures from October 2018 show there were approximately 28,000 pensioners claiming PIP in Scotland and 22,500 claims in Wales.

    The remaining 220,000 recipients were based in England, with the largest number of claims - 43,000 - in the North West. The result of the assessment determines the payments people receive to cope with the extra costs of living with a disability, such as mobility aids or adaptations in the home.

    Pensioners will only face checks every 10 years and may be able to fill in a form rather than seeing an assessor in person under the new system.

    In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities has confirmed that 7,500 people will no longer have to be regularly reassessed following Ms Rudd's pledge.

    Disabled campaigners have criticised the PIP reviews for failing to take proper account of mental health conditions and for putting disabled people's independence at risk by cutting support. Ms Rudd said that she wants to "significantly improve" the support for disabled people from the Department for Work and Pensions. "The benefits system should be the ally of disabled people. It should protect them and ensure that the assistance the government provides arrives in the right place to those who need it most," she said.

    She also announced a small scale trial to test the feasibility of bringing together the PIP assessments and Work Capability Assessments into one, in order to create a more "joined-up" approach. The work capability assessment determines what benefits people receive if their disabilities or illnesses affect their ability to work. Ms Rudd also said she plans to review the government's target to get one million more disabled people in work by 2027make it "more ambititious"

    Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said 83% of people with multiple sclerosis who appeal against their PIP assessments are successful - and that demonstrates "how bad the current assessment process is. While it's good news that older disabled people will no longer have to go through unnecessary and stressful reassessments, millions of others will still be stuck in a failing system," she said. Ms Edwards said that merging the two forms of assessment without fixing their flaws would be like "harnessing two donkeys to a farm cart and expecting it to transform into a race chariot".

    Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, said he welcomed the change to PIP assessments but said a "more radical overhaul" to the benefits system for disabled people was needed. "Disabled people also want to see action taken to scrap counterproductive benefit sanctions. They make it harder for disabled people to get into work."

  • Article: Mar 13, 2019

    It is one of the biggest domestic policy issues of our times - where should the balance be struck between the individual and the state's responsibility for paying for care in old age? A much-anticipated government policy paper for England has still not surfaced. Experts are calling it a "national scandal" with services in parts of the country near collapse and millions of vulnerable people deprived of the care and support they need.

    The document (known as a Green Paper) on the future of adult social care in England was first promised for the summer of 2017. Delays and postponements followed and despite official guidance that it would appear in 2018, the paper remained unfinished and under wraps in Whitehall.

    In January the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs he intended it to "happen before April". But April is not far off and there is no sign of imminent publication.

    Sources indicate that hopefully the paper will emerge during April. But with the Easter parliamentary holiday there are limited dates for a launch. The May local elections have thrown up another obstacle in the shape of "purdah" during campaigns. Traditionally, official policy announcements are not made in the weeks before polling day.

    The Brexit debates and votes have made it harder for ministers to focus on domestic issues like social care, let alone decide a date for a policy launch.

    The paper is a cross-government exercise and needs buy-in from Downing Street and the Treasury. There are thorny questions to be resolved and differences still to be ironed out. So don't hold your breath. It may yet be a while before the document sees the light of day.

    And this is causing increasing concern amongst both leaders in the social care sector and their counterparts in the NHS. A group of health 15 health organisations has now written to the Prime Minister calling for action. They note that it is unusual for one part of the public sector to call for more funding for another part. Led by the NHS Confederation, the group argues that "social care is on the brink of collapse" and that 1.4 million older people in need in England now receive no help. After a two year wait, they claim, it is time for the government to put things right.

    The Green Paper will not contain long-term funding plans for local authority provision of social care. They will come with the Treasury spending review which is due in the autumn. But the paper will address the question of an individual's responsibility for paying for care. Only those with assets below £23,250 receive local authority help with care costs. This includes the value of a house if the care is in a residential facility.

    Historically, this has left some families having to sell a house to cover the costs of looking after a parent in a care home. It is possible to defer these bills until after the parent's death but the property may need to be sold then to repay the local authority. One solution is to cap lifetime social care costs and this was government policy until 2017 when the idea was shelved.

    Matt Hancock, in a letter to the Prime Minister leaked to the Daily Telegraph, warned that plans for such a cap at around £100,000 could cost taxpayers billions of pounds and would only benefit a small number of better-off families. In an interview with LBC radio, Mr Hancock was asked if people would in future still have to sell their houses to fund social care.

    He described this as "an injustice" and dropped a strong hint that the current means-tested system was due for a major shake-up, with the burden spread across all taxpayers. The Health Secretary has already talked about ideas for new forms of levy or taxation to cover future social care costs.

    This could involve a state-backed insurance scheme which those in work are automatically enrolled into, along the lines of the workplace pension scheme introduced after government legislation in 2008. Opting out would be possible.

    Another possibility is higher National Insurance contributions, or a special levy, to be paid by the over 40s with the proceeds ring-fenced for social care.

    The latter idea was proposed by three Commons Select Committees so has the advantage of cross-party support. When it comes, the green paper will have a series of ideas and there will then be a consultation process. It will no doubt be a weighty and important document, but with questions rather than firm proposals.

    Those seeking answers and solutions to this vital domestic policy issue may have to wait a while yet. Scotland provides free personal care for the elderly. Wales has a weekly cap on home care and Northern Ireland has free care for over 75s at home.

  • Article: Mar 13, 2019

    It was a revelation that left Nicky Rowlands aghast - the moment she discovered she was being accused of fabricating the illness that had left her daughter in pain. Worse was to come. Her daughter Bethanie had to go to a hospital unit for a psychological disorder which she did not have.

    As a child, Bethanie complained of constant pain when she walked and was often sick after eating or drinking.

    Then after a routine tonsillectomy operation in 2014, she stopped eating completely. "I knew as soon as she'd had the operation, something wasn't right," said Nicky. "They assumed she had infections, but she couldn't even keep the antibiotics in and they had to feed her through a tube."

    Bethanie said: "It hurt so much when I first had the operation, but I don't think anyone expected it to, or knew why. I kept on trying to eat and I just got progressively more poorly." For some time, medical staff looking after Bethanie searched for a diagnosis. An explanation Nicky had found through searches on the internet was, she said, laughed away as being extremely rare.

    Then the arrival of a letter marked a change in the attitude of doctors. Nicky was told she was being investigated by social workers for inventing her daughter's symptoms, and Bethanie was to be sent to a psychiatric unit almost 100 miles away, in Southampton, where she stayed for 10 months between 2015 and 2016. "When we received that letter, it was very clear that it wasn't Bethanie they were talking about," Nicky says. "I flagged it straight away and said 'you have the wrong person. I asked them to check their notes to see if someone else's had got mixed up in it and they said that just doesn't happen."

    Nicky was refused access to the notes, as the child protection wheels were then in motion. Social workers thought Nicky was displaying Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) - what used to be known as Munchausen by Proxy - where parents deliberately make their children ill. Nicky's was one of 12 families in Gloucestershire suspected of having invented their children's symptoms. These cases have been looked at by a social worker and all the allegations of FII have now been dropped.

    The allegations against Nicky began to unravel when she finally got Bethanie's medical notes. "All of a sudden it was like reading something from a different author. I read back the page before and said 'we must find a medical reason for Bethanie's issues. Then all of a sudden it started talking about all of these symptoms she had never had," Nicky explains. She realised that another girl's name was on the notes - and this girl had an eating disorder, had self-harmed and was withdrawing from an addiction to painkillers.

    Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Board, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust and Gloucestershire County Council would not comment on Bethanie's case, but, in a joint response to the report, they said they would review their processes and staff training, and would welcome feedback and input from parents.

    Their spokesperson said: "Fabricated or Induced Illness is a complex area, and, whilst it is uncommon, when it is suspected, we work swiftly with our health and social care partners to ensure that children are kept safe - their welfare being of paramount importance. In such instances, we consider all the information available, with considerable emphasis on reaching professional consensus and acting appropriately in line with our protocol for jointly investigating suspected FII."

    University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust said the mix-up of notes in Gloucestershire did not influence the clinical care she received at its children's unit, and an investigation found no further action was required.

    In Nicky's case, the suspicion ended when she finally received a diagnosis for Bethanie. Her daughter was suffering from the condition she thought she had identified before Bethanie was sent away: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare illness which can cause joint hypermobility, extreme tiredness and digestive problems.

    While she is now back with her family, 15-year-old Bethanie knows she has a lifelong condition which means she will be fed by tube. And Nicky feels the best years of her daughter's life have been ruined. Nicky also had to give up her job because of the circumstances in which she and her daughter found themselves. "Bethanie lost four years of her life, she lost the rest of her childhood, and I've lost my life savings," she said.

  • Article: Mar 10, 2019

    We are saddened by the loss of Grantham's A&E facilities and believe that emergency cover in the area is important. The NHS South West Clincal Commissioning Group (CCG) and the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust have found the best solution in the circumstances. Grantham will benefit from 24 hour cover in the form of the Urgent Treatment Centre which although not ideal at least gives some cover.

  • Article: Mar 6, 2019


    18.15-19.15 SATURDAY 16 MARCH 2019


    LDEG AGM 18.15-18.45

    Chair: Baroness Sarah Ludford, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), House of Lords

    1) Apologies for absence

    2) Minutes of Southport AGM and matters arising