Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Local Care for the Elderly

In Elmbridge - a place the Daily Mail dubbed the Beverly Hills of Surrey – it is easy to overlook pockets of neglect. These are a direct result of the poor deal Surrey gets for local funding from the Treasury: per capita spending on local public services is a third of the national average.

In her excellent study, ‘Hidden Surrey’, Dr Helen Bowcock points out that Labour have cynically neglected pockets of deprivation across the county, because in her words ‘there is no electoral cost’. The recent closure of Burwood ward at Walton hospital, which cared for patients suffering with dementia, is just one example of the practical consequences of that choke hold on local funding. More broadly, across Elmbridge, there are two striking symptoms of this neglect by central government. In Walton Ambleside, child poverty is double the national average. And, in Walton North and Molesey South, elderly poverty is 50% higher than the national average.

Families and the voluntary sector have been left to pick up the pieces, but fortunately Esher and Walton is blessed with a strong community spirit. Last week, I met with Claire Robertson, who manages the local efforts of the Alzheimer’s Society. She talked me through the training for carers, legal and financial advice and moral support the Society gives families across Elmbridge, who are coming terms with a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s.

On Saturday, I visited Whiteley Village in Walton. This is a retirement home with a difference. Established with a £1 million endowment from philanthropist William Whiteley, at the turn of the century, it provides homes for all needs in magnificent grounds covering 200 acres. The accommodation ranges from cottages for those living independently to nursing care. The facilities range from snooker to a dance hall – with two churches on the grounds. The village caters both for those who can afford to pay rent and others with more limited means. I am extremely grateful to Roy Hone, a resident and former RAF engineer, for a guided tour in blustery conditions (see below). Whitely village is one of the most impressive philanthropic legacies I have ever come across. As your MP, I would be an enthusiastic and energetic supporter of the many inspiring local charities operating across Elmbridge.


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