Hello and welcome to the first edition of Gateway Digest, a regular round-up that brings you a taste of local and national developments in health and social care.

In this edition…


National debate on care costs

Recently there has been growing frustration directed at the Government for failing to decide upon reform for how older people and people with disabilities pay for their own care. Although some proposals and recommendations have been put forward, it may be until the next spending review in 2015 that we know the full picture.

The current social care payments system is unsustainable due to people living longer, and many people now have to pay for their own care or simply go without due to funding cuts over the past couple of years, that have led to Local Authorities increasing their thresholds for eligibility. As an idea of how much social care can potentially cost, the average weekly cost of a residential care home in the UK is around £500 per week. In St Helens there are around 31,000 people aged over 65, and it is estimated that 75% of these need some form of social care - this may range from help getting washed and dressed, to full round-the-clock care.

Beneficial proposals have been put forward, including increasing the wealth threshold at which people no longer receive financial help from the Local Authority, and introducing a cap as to how much people have to pay for their own care - it would cost the Government £1.7bn to introduce this cap, but they want to look at cheaper options first before implementing the idea. It has been proposed that the Government may have to cut winter fuel payments for older people, free TV licences and travel concessions in order to pay for the new social care reforms - all of which will negatively impact upon people’s financial and emotional wellbeing.

The government have however introduced several initiatives in the meantime. These include setting a national standard as to who can receive help and at what threshold (currently this varies from area to area), a pilot of free palliative personal care and a ‘deferred loan scheme’ whereby people would be loaned money to pay for their care (instead of having to sell their own home), however they would have to pay it back (plus interest) after they die - this idea has been criticised and labelled by some as a ‘death tax’.

Want to have your say on social care costs or other aspects of health and social care that you (or someone that you know) has received? St Helens LINk can listen to and act upon your views.

Worried about care benefits or finances? Age UK and DASH may be able to help.


New schemes to help tackle smoking in St Helens

According to research conducted by Heart of Mersey, 75% of children are aware of smoking and cigarettes before they reach the age of five, and an estimated 330,000 children nationwide under the age of 16 try cigarettes for the first time each year. Following on from this, St Helens Council announced last month that it is introducing a voluntary no smoking code to all of its 90 public play areas in the borough. Called ‘Play Smokefree’, the code aims to reduce the number of young people who start smoking, reduce the negative health effects of ‘second hand’ smoke and also reducing the amount of cigarette litter in play areas, overall making a more pleasant environment for children to play. Of the people surveyed in St Helens, 92% were in favour of the scheme.

If you are looking to quit smoking and attend Saints home games then help is at hand; on matchdays, smokers can benefit from advice from ‘Smokefree Squad’ stewards who have been specially trained to help those ready to kick the habit. Successful quitters will have their achievements highlighted through updates on the club website, in club publications and through matchday activities.

The Health Improvement Team run a SUPPORT stop smoking service that offers one-to-one support and advice from trained staff, access to free or reduced cost nicotine replacement therapy, support within the workplace setting and specialist advice to pregnant and breast-feeding smokers via trained midwives. They also have ‘Quit Heroes’ who are local people who have used the service to help them to stop smoking - you can read more about their stories via www.healthimprovementteam.co.uk or alternatively call 01744 814 837 for more information about the SUPPORT stop smoking service in St Helens.


Further support for people with dementia and their Carers

Following on from the ‘Supporting Dementia’ event that took place during Wellbeing Week, a number of new services have been launched in St Helens to help those with dementia and their Carers.

The Alzheimer’s Society have recently appointed a Dementia Adviser, Tony Boote, who will head up a new adviser service that provides information and signposting to people with dementia (and their Carers) at the point of diagnosis; a detailed plan will also be developed with each individual, which aims to empower them and promote independence. The Alzheimer’s Society have also recently relaunched their weekly activity group that takes place on a Thursday at the United Reformed Church, and they are soon to be starting a singing group called ‘Singing for the Brain’ - contact 0151 420 8010 for further information about this or any of their services. You can also watch Tony and Denise (Dementia Support service Manager) speak about the Alzheimer’s Society via our YouTube channel - click here to view their video.

We can also confirm further details of a new charity launching to help people affected by dementia. The former Mayor of St Helens, Tom Hargreaves, will formally launch the Hargreaves Dementia Trust at an opening ceremony on Wednesday 12th September at the Mansion House. The new charity will provide information and guidance, a Carers support group (called ‘Making Sense’), promote awareness and training for those working in direct care and they will also work alongside existing services to enhance the quality of life and experience for those living with dementia in St Helens. Keep your eyes peeled on our twitter page for further updates about the new charity.


Been affected by someone else’s suicide?

A new support group has launched in St Helens for people who have been affected by suicide. Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide will be running a monthly group to help those who would like some emotional support in dealing with the loss of a loved one through suicide - for further information about the group please click here.

The Government is shortly due to launch its new suicide prevention policy, and CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably, a charity focused on reducing suicide in men) have conducted research into adults who have considered taking their own lives. CALM have reported that a quarter of all adults have considered taking their own lives, and factors that have a large bearing include relationship status and number of children in the family - click here to read more about CALM’s studies. If you have been, or currently are, feeling suicidal then it is important to seek help - click here to read about available sources of support.


Seasonal health advice

The summer holidays are upon us and whether you are going abroad or staying in the UK, NHS Direct has produced a useful guide for keeping well this summer. It includes advice on coping with hayfever, staying safe in the sun, barbeque safety, dealing with bites and stings, travel health and a festival survival guide.


Stuck for ideas on entertaining the kids during the holidays?

It has been reported in the news recently that children who watch more than two hours of television per day risk increasing their waist size and reducing their muscle fitness, factors which can lead to obesity. Although we haven’t enjoyed the best summer so far in terms of sunshine, there is still plenty going on throughout the borough to keep children and families entertained during the school holidays, so we asked What’s on in St Helens to give us the lowdown…

  • Summer Streets 02/08/12 to 04/08/12 - the streets of St Helens will burst into life for three days of outdoor performance. St Helens Council has unveiled a stellar line-up of world-class street artists, including comedy, music, acrobatics, dance, magic and theatre. Visitors can also see acts including the Foodies (a comedy duo involving a Chef and his hilariously hopeless trainee), Farenheight (fiery stilt walkers), Tiny the Dinosaur (an extremely life-like dinosaur) and a wonderful children’s show inside the belly of a 30-foot long sleeping pig!
  • Summer Beach and Rides 08/08/12 to 01/09/12 - Church Square will be transformed into a children’s beach area with free seaside entertainment and a selection of exciting rides and attractions
  • Heritage Celebration 31/08/12 and 01/09/12 - as part of the Heritage Festival, there will be heritage-themed arts, crafts and research events and activities taking place at St Helens Library. Later on in September there will also be a Victorian Tea Dance (06/09/12) and open days at the Masonic Hall, Smithy Heritage Centre, Friends Meeting House, Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel, St Helens Cemetery, St Helens Town Hall, Windleshaw Chantry, The World of Glass and at Fir Tree Farm.

Take a look at the ‘Summer Fun’ brochure for more information about events and activities taking place during the school holidays. For more information about what’s happening in St Helens go to www.whatsoninsthelens.com, call 01744 675 492 or visit their Facebook and Twitter pages.


Local news and events

  • In October the Pride of St Helens Awards are taking place for the first time, celebrating the best of St Helens, including outstanding achievers and those who have succeeded in the face of adversity. Nominations are currently being accepted across eleven separate categories that include Community Hero, Mentor of the Year and Courage Award. Nominees should either live, work or have been born in the St Helens area and entries can be made online or via the St Helens Star.
  • Thinking about starting your own business but not sure where to begin? Halton and St Helens VCA are offering a free business support project to St Helens residents who are looking to become a sole-trader, start a social enterprise or taking the first steps in starting a business. Click here for further information.
  • The Wellbeing Project has three new groups starting for anyone looking to improve their wellbeing. Develop your singing ability and unlock your creative potential with the Choir group (Starts 08/08/12 every Thursday from 10am at United Reformed Church). Develop your reading ability with a Reading Group (every Thursday from 1pm at the Millennium Centre) and learn how to write your own short story in the Writers Group (every Monday from 10am at the Millennium Centre). All groups are free to attend, and for more information about the group please contact Lynn Swift on 01744 26444 or email l.swift@wellbeingproject.co.uk
  • Help make St Helens a safer place to live, work and play by completing the Community Safety survey (click here). Feedback will be used to plan what is done to tackle crime and disorder in the borough over the coming years.


St Helens Gateway nominated for national award

We are delighted to announce that St Helens Gateway has recently been nominated for a prestigious Third Sector Excellence Award. Now in their eighth year, the awards ceremony recognises and celebrates the outstanding work and innovation that takes place in charities and not-for-profit organisations. The award winner will be announced at a dinner in London on the 27th September, and for more information on this story please click here.


App of the month

WheelMate is a smartphone app (iTunes or Android) and website that locates wheelchair accessible toilets and parking spaces for people with a disability. It is a peer-led system, so if you know of any facilities within St Helens that aren’t already listed then please add them to WheelMate in order to help others.


Quirky story of the month

Ending Gateway Digest on a more light-hearted note, we couldn’t help but notice a Metro article published this month regarding a small town in Alaska called Talkeetna - click here to find out why!


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