News & Events
Current news and events relevent to improved access for the disabled in Mole Valley
Inclusive Sport Programme
As a result we have a number of exciting sport sessions starting in the local area, many free of charge. These new sessions include:
- Swimming – informal swimming lessons
- Gentle fitness
Firstly, if you or your organisation would like to receive the most up to date information on the inclusive sport sessions we offer. Please respond directly to this email and I will add you to the mailing list.
Secondly, if you or your organisation works with large numbers of people with disabilities and have specific sports you would like help with providing. Just let me know and I will see if I can support in some way.
Thirdly, myself and the arts officer are forming and Inclusive Sport and Arts group for Mole Valley. The aim of this group will be to identify gaps in current provision and then to work together with a more joined up approach to combat these gaps. We aim to meet on an annual basis for face to face discussions on how we can work together to provide the best possible Sport and Arts opportunities for MV residents with disabilities. We would like this group to include a wide and diverse range of people. So is open to everyone who would like to have a positive impact on local disability sport and arts. This group will also prove a means of helping local organisations become aware of each others work, providing partnership working opportunities. Again if you would like to be a part of this group please respond to this email and you will be invited to the first meting which is scheduled for December.
Jonny Pickering Sports & Communities Officer
The Care Act 2015
MVAG received a presentation detailing changes in care legislation brought in by the Care Act 2015.
Mr Stewart’s (SCC), role entails working within MVDC’s Social Care Team to ensure that obligations towards those acting as carers are being met. Mr Stewart explained to the group the distinction between care workers (who are paid) and carers (who are unpaid). According to the 2011 census there were 108,433 carers in Surrey, approximately 9.8% of the population, which includes 14,000 young carers.
The Care Act 2015 came into force on 1 April 2015, and provides the same legal rights for carers as those that they care for. Local Authorities must provide carer assessments, and are obliged to try where possible to alleviate care provided by young people. Assessments will typically look at the type(s) of care being provided and the impact this has on the carer’s life (mentally, physically and socially).
An assessment form is sent to the carer in advance of the assessment, so they know what is involved, and can be undertaken at a neutral venue if the carer feels more comfortable doing so. Assessments are usually completed within 28 days from the date when the local authority becomes aware of the requirement.
MVDC Sports & Communities
There are a range of accessible sporting activities currently available in the District. Some of these activities were enjoying particularly high levels of participation, whilst others were struggling to attract high numbers at particular locations, therefore were being trialled in alternative locations to try to boost participation levels. It was hoped that the Surrey Youth Games in June would assist with the aim of significantly increasing sporting participation.
The full range of information and contact details regarding Inclusive Sport are available on MVDC’s website.
Simon Laker, Managing Director of Surrey Choices, and Paul Oliver, Financial Director of Surrey Choices, gave a presentation to the meeting. The company has five key areas of service delivery; AboutUs, EmployAbility, Personalisation, Shared Lives and Day Services. Delivering these services as a Ltd Company rather than being under local authority control had the benefit of permitting the allocation of resources according to market need, rather than contractual obligations. The company also enjoys the freedom to think creatively and make quick decisions, independently of the constraints on local authorities.
It was noted that in comparison to neighbouring Surrey authorities, Mole Valley had relatively few facilities currently located in the District. Surrey Choices were piloting a transport model which would address the needs of Mole Valley residents in the short term by offering services to sites located in neighbouring Districts. Longer term, they will continue to monitor the availability and viability of potential sites located within the Mole Valley District.
Group members can also email firstname.lastname@example.org asking to be added to their mailing list.
Malcolm Dean, Building Control Manager, explained how accessibility requirements are governed by Building Regulations. He explained the key differences between Planning and Building Control - the main difference being that Building Control operates in accordance with national legislative standards, with no scope for locally determined conditions. The government sets the standards for the design and construction of buildings, advised by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC). The current set of regulations came into force in 2010.
Part M of the Regulations is the relevant document with regard to the need for a developer to comply with accessibility requirements for new buildings. The document can be viewed via the Government’s planning portal.
On receipt of an application, the Council checks the applicant’s plans and consults relevant authorities (e.g. fire service). If the plans comply with the Building Regulations an approval notice is issued, and subsequent inspections are carried out once building has commenced.
Applicants now have the option to use an Approved Inspector, instead of their local Council, to monitor their compliance with the regulations. This has led to a reduction in the Council’s influence, particularly in its ability to ensure the compliance of larger, national companies, who often prefer to employ Inspectors from the same private company, rather than dealing with different local authorities each time. Several parts of the regulations are also somewhat ambiguous, often requiring a degree of personal judgement in determining to what extent a building meets “reasonable” requirements.
In March 2014 the Government had completed a consultation as part of its Housing Standards Review, which looked at how to rationalise and simplify the current range of accessibility standards so that they were consistently applied. Going forward, the government has suggested that the proportion of new homes meeting higher levels of accessibility should be set through local planning policies. This would allow interested parties, such as Mole Valley Access Group, to contribute representations. The Review is expected to result in legislation being passed during the current Parliament, and the relevant press releases can be viewed via the Government planning portall.
Planning Issues – Process and legal framework
Caroline Hall, Planning Officer for Mole Valley District Council, explained the process involved in planning applications for new buildings. MVAG were one of the bodies consulted on new applications, and any comments put forward were taken into consideration and could result in conditions being imposed on developments. The applicant assumes responsibility for ensuring that the requirements of the DDA are complied with, and for public buildings, Part M of the Building Regulations requires the applicant to consider access for all, as well as setting down certain minimum standards for disabled access for such items as steps and ramps, door widths, accessible toilets etc. Building Control monitors and enforces compliance with these Regulations, and would not sign off the work if compliance had not been achieved.
The regulatory framework for private developments was less descriptive, and the planning authority had few powers to influence matters relating to accessibility for this type of application. Comments from MVAG could be put to the applicant, as could suggestions from the planning authority, but the Council could not impose or enforce conditions. All planning applications are published on the Mole Valley website, and if any member of the public or MVAG member wanted to find out more information about a proposal, they could attend the Pippbrook offices to view plans and speak to the case officer. In addition, the Council had recently adopted a validation checklist for new applications to ensure that all necessary information was included with an application before it could be registered. Also, accessibility considerations had been factored into the Council’s Core Strategy, with encouragement given to the development of ‘Lifetime Homes’, i.e. homes suited to all stages of life.
The Local Committee
The Mole Valley Local Committee consists of the six Surrey County Councillors which represent Mole Valley, as well as six Mole Valley District Councillors. The Committee generally meets every three months to discuss and decide upon matters including highways, libraries, schools, public transport and social care. Any questions for the Committee could be emailed to Sarah.Smith@surreycc.gov.uk.
It was explained that each of the six County Councillors representing Mole Valley has a local allowance of approximately £10,000 per year to fund projects of local importance.
Brian Cooper - Remap
Remap is a national charity with a network of dedicated volunteers. These volunteers use their ingenuity and skills to design and build custom made equipment to help people with disabilities achieve greater independence in their lives, and to enjoy leisure opportunities previously closed to them. Many of the aids they produce are required because no commercially available aid exists. The charity has 80 panels across England, Wales and Northern Ireland (usually 1 per County) and deals with around 4,000 cases each year.
Mr Cooper presented to the group a series of images showing a diverse range of products built by Remap, and explained the difference these products had made to the lives of those using them. The Group noted that many of the solutions designed by Remap were surprisingly simple and yet offered highly effective solutions.
Derek Thorpe said that he could vouch for the excellent work which Remap carries out, having received assistance in the past with specially designed crutches.
Strong views were expressed regarding the Leatherhead/Ashtead cycle scheme. There was disappointment that safety railings had been removed during the project and not replaced, whilst it was noted that the cycle path remains largely ignored by local and club cyclists who continue to use the road instead. At various junctions traffic had noticeably increased, whilst areas of surfacing were said to have been left in a poor condition. In mitigation, the Group did note that they had seen many more wheelchair users actively using the path.
SCC undertakes an annual parking review, and information click this link to learn more.
Funding for Highways
There are two main budgets set aside for Highway programmes. The first, is a budget for asset maintenance. This comprises approximately £200k with the inclusion of funding for SCC’s ‘community gangs’ which carry out duties such as grass cutting, cutting back vegetation, clearing footways, cleaning/repairing signs and tackling drainage issues.
A separate budget, also circa 200k, is set aside for capital schemes, which are carried out on a 2 year rolling programme. The programmes for 2015/16 and 2016/17 had recently been agreed by the Mole Valley Local Committee.
There was also a third potential source of funding for Highway schemes, in the form of Member Allocations. Each of the 6 County Councillors representing Mole Valley has an allocation from which organisations and groups can apply for funds for projects that promote the well-being of the community. It was suggested that this might be the most appropriate avenue for requesting access improvements such as dropped kerbs on behalf of the Group, rather than waiting for improvements to be processed through the rolling programme. It was noted that tackling drainage issues had taken on huge importance following widespread flooding in Surrey during the winter of 2013/14. However, drainage was a complex issue, often involving a coordinated effort by numerous agencies and landowners to get to the heart of the problem. Through such joint working, improvements were being seen and landowners were being encouraged to adopt a greater duty of care towards keeping ditches and gullies clear. Some Group members experienced problems with blocked drains in their local areas and these can be reported in the same way as other Highway issues, through SCC’s website or by telephone.
Members of MVAG should continue to make use of SCC’s online reporting facility, through which issues raised are assigned to the Community Highways Officer for further investigation.
Surrey Downs CCG
The Patient Public Engagement Manager for Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) came to explain to MVAG what the role of the CCG is and the current treview of services that is happening. CCG’s had been introduced in April 2013, replacing Primary Care Trusts (PCT’s). The main impact of these reforms was to put GP’s and clinicians at the heart of commissioning (buying) healthcare services. The Surrey CCG area covers a population of approximately 300,000 and commands a budget of approximately £320bn.
CCG’s are involved with the purchase of hospital services and mental health services, but not the purchase of GP services, opticians, dentists or pharmaceutical services (these are dealt with through NHS England).
Between April and July the CCG is conducting a review of community hospital services across Surrey Downs. A recent case where beds had to be removed from Leatherhead Hospital due to safety concerns had in part prompted the review, although the review was not limited to Leatherhead and would also be taking in the three other Hospitals managed by the CCG (Dorking, Molesey and Epsom & Ewell). One of the ongoing issues for the CCG was the proximity of the administrative area to London, where staff could expect to earn more attractive salaries due to London-weighting. This meant that attracting and retaining staff in Surrey was problematic, and staff shortages were often being covered by agency staff. Once the ratio of agency to permanent staff reaches a certain level, it is considered to involve a risk to patient safety, which is why beds had been removed from Leatherhead.