Healthwatch Camden AGM 23 November 2015 – Guest speaker: Sir Keir Starmer, KCB, QC

Since the 2015 General Election, Keir has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras. He was the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) from 2008 to 2013. He has prosecuted in numerous cases for the CPS during his career, acting principally as a defence lawyer specialising in the law of human rights

Talking about health and social care in Camden…

Keir talked about his work around prison Mental Health issues and working with MIND. He said that he’s looking forward to working with Healthwatch Camden on Mental Health issues.

He also spoke about the joint Spending Review and Autumn Statement that was published by the government on 25 November 2015. Also on how probable cuts will affect Social Care and Mental Health; as in the current example of Camden MIND day care centre, where for some users daily budgets mean a restriction to visits of only one day a week, leaving vulnerable people alone for the remainder.

Kier was also asked by service users of the Highgate Day Centre to comment on the cuts, restrictions and loss of services, which for example, are already having an effect on people who do not now feel supported or confident to return to the workplace or day to day independent living.  Kier agreed to look into the 50% cuts at the Highgate Day Centre.

Speaking on behalf of the Labour councillors – some felt them to be responsible for the cuts, Kier stated that the  50% budget cuts and forthcoming spending review cuts, often meant that this kind of service disruption will happen, during the current government. He gave the example of the forced sale of affordable Housing Association homes, and the market value ‘difference’ which then had to be met by the local council as a ‘penalty’ cost, from the social care budget.

Asked directly “what can be done about the cuts”, Kier responded that continued lobbying with good examples (a day or two prior, for detailed parliamentary business) of ‘individual, personal, well informed’ stories (rather than automated) were best to grab attention, as Labour needs the backing of other parties’ members, these would help to convince them to lobby/vote against the government cuts, particularly in Camden.

Other questions raised were:

Homelessness in Camden and the migration of homelessness people

  • Keir agreed that HWBB cooperation with joined-up borough work was needed.

Did he support the NHS Reinstatement Bill  

  • Keir responded that NHS should not have internal markets

HS2: health risk due to congestion of Lorries