Earlier this week, I continued my whistlestop tour of the borough’s adult services, finding out more about how voluntary groups provide such valuable support for residents. Sutton Centre for Independent Living and Learning (SCILL) and Sutton Carers were perfect examples of the fact that Local Authorities are often not the right people to provide services themselves, instead supporting others who can be more responsive.

I’ve met both Sam Edwards who runs SCILL and Rachael Macleod (second from right in photo) from Sutton Carers on several occasions around a table. It is only spending a bit of time away from meeting rooms, seeing their work firsthand that you can get the fullest sense of the role that their organisations play.

First up, lunch at Sherwood Cafe. Based in SCILL, it is open to the public as well as people using the centre. Star turn was Charlie who served us and who had proved to be an excellent ambassador for the service at the Take Part, Take Pride stall in Sutton High Street earlier. We discussed the changes that were happening in Adult Social Care with the Government’s “Transforming Social Care” agenda. The main thrust of this is to ‘personalise’ services so that the elderly or those with a disability do not simply get taken from home, left in a large room in a day centre and collected at the end of the day. Instead residents have access to Direct Payments, cash that they can spend on the help and support that they want. This helps pay for personal assistants, trips and other support when it is needed rather than being imposed. Sam’s team handles this work, ensuring that it serves its purpose in being flexible, whilst maintaining the integrity of the system. I was especially impressed with the small but very able and creative team who worked with residents to go beyond just supplying basic support. They acted as life coaches, encouraging visitors to SCILL to look beyond the day to day and so investigate other areas that SCILL can help with to improve the quality of their lives and to find and build a level of independence.

Then onto Sutton Carers. I don’t know many Canadians, but Rachael Macleod’s default excuse for being a no-nonsense kinda gal, championing her cause is that she is from Canada. If that’s the case, Stephen Harper must have a queue a mile long on Parliament Hill, with people fighting for what they believe. Persuasive, comprehensive and most of all passionate about her subject, Rachael is someone you want on your side and a real asset to Sutton Carers. Having spent sometime ‘speed-dating’ the staff, with 10 minutes or so looking at each area, I met someone who had dropped into the centre. Disabled herself, her husband was an alcoholic. Who else can you turn to in such an instance? Where else can you go? Both professional support and a friendly ear from volunteers who had been carers are available.

There is still more to be done to ensure that everyone knows about what is on offer and what they can acheive. We can always do more to support charities like Sutton Carers However, they are both excellent services and both great examples of what can be done when council officers have the foresight to set people free from the constraints of usual outdated practice.

Hat Tip: Radio Jackie for photo.