Ipswich Futures – part 2

Here is more on the Ipswich futures conference………

As part of the presentation there was a section on education, including truancy figures which were a little above average. The figures show that at school girls are achieving more than boys in school. This is a national trend. But, women in Ipswich earn on average £3000 less annually than men. There is no reason as to why this is the case. Girls come out of school with better grades, yet can expect to earn less. This just goes to show how the gender pay gap is still a very real thing. So sad in 2014, we have a long way to go still.

Ipswich has a skills gap. Employers in the town state they cannot always find people with the relevant skills to fill vacancies. My big concern here is that education is currently in the turmoil of Gove, with a shrinking curriculum, and unhappy workforce. Teaching is not a nice place to be at the moment, teaching to exams that change every year, education is no longer a vocation but a box ticking exercise. Central government is decimating education budgets, expecting more to be done with less money, and less teaching hours, its impossible. Locally, Suffolk New College and UCS are facing cuts and redundancies.

How is Ipswich going to improve the skills of our young people and the future of our workforce if our educational establishments are not able to deliver quality qualifications and a progression pathway? Where else can we look to deliver training and experience? Local business? High Schools? There is also a need for aspiration to be developed in schools, showing young people what they can be and how they can achieve it. This all costs money, but if there is one thing we should invest in its education, its our future. Where can the money come from? I don’t know the answers but is was good to begin the discussion today.

In the afternoon we had a session on Inclusive Ipswich: Well being and opportunity

 

This was in four sections the first of these was Poverty and progression. This highlighted that Ipswich has a low pay problem. Those below the poverty line are mostly working. There are 6.1 million poor, in work in the UK. Minimum wage is not enough to live on now, especially if you have dependants. The living wage has been calculated to be the amount you need to live on. I’m proud to say that Ipswich Borough Council is a living wage employer, and I hope this will make a difference to workers lives in Ipswich. If more employers could make a commitment to the living wage we could bring many out of poverty.

 

Then there is the low pay, no pay cycle. Minimum wage work can often be short term or fixed term, meaning people come in and out of low paid jobs frequently. The Tory spun myths that the unemployed are sucking the country dry in disproved by the statistics.

 

  • 74% of JSA claimants come off this benefit within 6 months.

  • 46% who come off JSA will go back on to it in future because of the low pay, no pay cycle

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In the hope of breaking this vicious circle so many are trapped in we need to look at education, and a route into long term employment. We need to make education more accessible for those who didn’t do so well at high school. Giving them an opportunity through work based training, apprenticeships and these routes having a clear progression to employment. This of course yet again highlights the importance of education in the town.

 

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Ipswich Futures

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Today I attended the Ipswich Futures conference at University College Suffolk. I’ve lived in Ipswich most of my life and feel like I have a good idea of what our town is like, but I felt like I had a real education today! It was a really interesting day of information on Ipswich, in the hope that by gaining this knowledge and evidence we can make more informed decisions on the future of our town.

We began with some background on UCS. UCS is our local university. Its students are mostly local, around 75%, 50% from IP postcodes.

Next, the State of Ipswich, which is a collation of statistics and figures. Everything from population, education, marriage and housing. The presentation gave a real insight into the people of our town and shows how we compare to national trends. This was also followed by the centre for cities giving more information on how we measure up nationally. Here are a few things I found interesting and noted down whilst there.

 

  • Ipswich is growing rapidly, currently with a population of 133,400.

  • We rate at 16th largest in the UK.

  • My ward as a Labour councillor, Gainsborough, has a population of 8792, much bigger than I thought

  • Home ownership is declining and private rental is on the rise.

  • Marriage numbers are falling

  • We have more than average public sector jobs

  • Housing is mostly affordable

  • Ipswich is centralising, and as a result showing job growth

 

A lot of positive things came out of this for me. Our town seems to be in a good position with a bright future, that we need to shape.

 

The London Vocal Project at Ronnie Scotts

I’m also part of the London vocal Project. Singing to a sold out Ronnie Scott’s crowd is a great feeling.
I love the Miles Ahead Album. It has a unique sound. Gil’s arranging is stunning and Miles just floats over this bed of harmony. It’s incredibly melodic improvising. Beauty.
Thanks for this Katie B!

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Katies likes and thoughts

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Yesterday saw me perform at the legendary Ronnie Scotts with the formidable London Vocal Project featuring the amazing  Anita Wardell and a band with Nikki Iles, Steve WattsSteve Brown and Andres Ticino blowing people away.

I have sang with the London Vocal Project since 2006 when we formed at the Guildhall out of the ‘jazz singers’ group that Pete Churchill, (an incredible educator, inspirational leader and general nice guy) ran. Since then the choir has grown to an impressive near 30 and is a mixture of Alumni from the Colleges and singers in London.

As a project choir we frequently work on pieces for a short space of time with an end performance or recording being the aim. These, in the past, have been: education projects with the Merton Music Foundation culminating in performances at the RAH; performances as part of the London Jazz Festival; London…

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Mental Health Services – How can we make it better?

Today I attended a strategic planning meeting for the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation trust. Now the NSFT doesn’t even mention mental health, if you’ve not had experience with them, you wouldn’t know who they were! They are in charge of all mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk, everything from eating disorders and dementia care to learning difficulties and depression, they cover it. It is a huge area, and still sad that there is so little budget and emphasis on good mental health and well being in comparison to physical health. The statistics are quite shocking when it comes to mental health in this country, and despite this, budgets are still being cut by the coalition government.

– Only 25% of adults with mental illness receive care – 92% of people with diabetes receive care

– Poor mental health is responsible for for the largest proportion of disease burden in the UK at 22.8% MORE than cardiovascular disease 16.2% OR cancer 15.9%

– Mental health problems are estimated to be the commonest cause of premature death

Harsh facts that really hit home. To make a real impact on this there needs to be a clear route forward, essentially fighting the cuts being imposed. Today brought together NHS workers, managers, service users, carers and planners to begin looking at how this seemingly impossible task can be tackled. We had some interesting discussion on our table and I came away feeling fairly positive. Its a difficult beast, unlike physical health outcomes cannot always be successfully measured, there is no black or white.

I learned a lot, for example the organisation and structure of Suffolk is different to Norfolk despite being part of the same trust. In Suffolk more responsibility falls to Suffolk County Council and voluntary organisations. Mental health spend per head in Suffolk is just £90, the lowest in the trust and way below the national average at £166 per head. Acute spend per head in Suffolk is then the highest in the trust at £783, to me this screams more need to be done to prevent people becoming very unwell, more action in the early stages of their illness. Prevention is better than cure, but this is not happening or even being addressed in mental health yet.

My thoughts are based on my experience as a service user. I’ve been in secondary mental health services for about three years and during that time have had excellent care and also some upsetting experiences.

Staff – I know that the recent reshuffle of staff at NSFT has had a massive impact on the staff. I’ve heard a lot of negative comments around this and staff morale seems to be significantly affected. The reassignment of many staff has meant that many who worked in certain specialisms for example, the elderly, have been put into new roles they have no experience of. Now I’m sure they have the basic training for the job, but not the years of experience. So the person who worked with the elderly, could now deals with young adults. Do the have training on benefits? Housing? Getting into work or education? No, and this has been and issue for me.
They need to be retrained, if you are going to redeploy them!

Signposting – To continue to improve the service there needs to be better relationships with other bodies for example, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Mind. NSFT need to get better at referring people to other places for help, as with cuts, they will be offering less themselves. Now that could be for Social services, housing, benefits, disability issues or care issues. All important things that on their own can impact on peoples health. Also directing people to further help or treatment via voluntary organisations and charities like MIND, Suffolk carers, SANE, Relate and Suffolk councillors. I feel very strongly that this is going to be the future of the service.

Employers – We need to educate employers so they know more and understand mental health. Only 8.9% of adults in contact with secondary mental health services are in paid employment. Now of course a lot of these people are very unwell, or have long term disability so they are unable to work. But, I also believe the lack of understanding from employers stops people with mental health issues looking for work or returning to work from a long term absence. It very difficult to return to work after any absence and it should be made as easy as possible. Mental health is not often seen as an ongoing disability, but for some people it very much is. This needs to be understood in terms of the equalities act and reasonable adjustments, consulting the individual every step of the way. Companies, councils and organisations need to be encouraged to sign up to the Mindful employers charter, as a starting point for educating staff. There needs to be an emphasis on looking after employees, in the long term this means they will do a better job!

Stigma – We laughed at the fact that NSFT doesn’t even mention mental health, neither does their proposed mission statement. Yet, they want to battle stigma! Well I say fight it head on, people can have good mental health as well as bad, its something we all have. Lets not be afraid of talking about different conditions and illnesses, medication, therapy, being unwell and getting better. Sharing experiences between staff, service users and carers could be a very positive thing here and really help towards accountability and outcomes. Also so others can understand our experiences good and bad, the ups and downs that we know will happen. Getting better would be better put as a battle to keep well, its on going, its medication, its therapy, its understanding.
But, if we are all afraid to talk about it we cant go forward. I kept my recurrent depression under wraps for many years, until I became so unwell I had to come out. It was scary but liberating. I want to talk about it so others can see that life can continue, you can get better, you can achieve, you can become part of society again and be needed and valued by those around you.

How did I get here?

How did I get here?

It’s amazing how fast time can go. When you’re busy it whizzes by and suddenly you’re in a place you could never have predicted. The last few years have been a roller coaster of emotion, with both physical and mental barriers to overcome. I feel like I fought hard to get here, to be a woman, a worker, a musician, an educator, a performer, a union activist, a politician. Now I’m almost here I don’t know how I did it. Sometimes I think I died in that coma last year, and this is the dream. Sometimes I think I can’t do it. Sometimes I think it’s too much. Sometimes I think I should give it all up. But something keeps me going, something tells me this is right.

Tomorrow is the local and euro elections and I’m standing as a labour councillor for Gainsborough ward in Ipswich. I joined the Labour Party because of my links with my trade union, the musicians union. I’m currently on the executive committee of the MU, in my third term. I remember popping along to an Ipswich labour event on being a councillor, it was interesting. Ipswich labour are very active and I got involved, selected, and here I am.

I wanted to do this to help people, I believe you should get involved if you want to make change. And change is vital to moving forward, making a fairer, better place for us all. The Tory liberal coalition inspired me. Their privatisation, cuts and devastation of so many things that are great about the uk angered me. I was outraged to see the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Through this negative time I felt now more than ever was the time to get involved and make my tiny part count.

I feel the same about the MU, a trade union for musicians of all kinds. We need to be there and stand together for musicians. We quite often work alone as self employed minstrel types, looking after everything from self promotion to tax returns. So I feel having a trade union to look our for us, help us and stand up for us in times of need is vital. That’s why I’m on the Executive committee. I think it’s important to give a bit of time to help our profession, musicians and music.

I also teach, tomorrow we have Ofsted visiting us. I teach because I like the students. I’m in FE so they are 16 upwards. A great age, full of ideas, opinions and bright futures. I also lead a community choir, Suffolk Soul Singers. It brings people together to use their voices, make music and perform.

Music in all it’s weird and wonderful forms will always be part of my life. It is my talent, gift, passion profession and pastime. I love to listen, I love to create. Music moves me, heals me, frustrates me, inspires me….

sometimes it’s the answer, sometimes the question.

I know I will never understand it all, I don’t think we are supposed to. image

Music- Jazz- Singing- Sax- Teaching – Coffee -Lefty lady Labour Councillor- musicians Union- politics- sausage dogs