Wednesday, November 22, 2006

And now for some good news - neighbourhoods and regeneration

A new Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on life on unpopular estates does not seem to have had much coverage in the media. But its good news.

The report produced by researchers at the LSE and published this week on 20 sink estates shows that almost all the estates studied had been turned around. As a result the gap between the estates and neighbouring areas had narrowed over the last decade.

While government policy and buoyancy in labour and housing markets are clearly factors, housing associations and ALMOs can (and should) take some credit.

Let’s hope the comprehensive spending review gives some priority to housing and regeneration – in particular, decent neighbourhoods - to carry on the good work.

Democracy in the NHS - participation in Foundation Trusts

The Daily Telegraph isn’t the most objective and non-partisan observer of the recent Foundation Trust (FT) elections – does anyone seriously calculate turnout in terms of total population (including under 18s)? does anyone really believe that everyone will join and participate in FTs, particularly the specialist hospitals?

Nevertheless, there are grounds for concern. FT elections choose the governing bodies that ensure that the FT boards are held accountable so they are important.

Membership figures are low. Public awareness is even lower. The FTs were created as mutual institutions using models found in the co-operative movement – yet, many in the co-operative movements don’t appreciate or understand this.

OK. I confess. I am only now joining my local FT.

The regulator of FTs, Monitor, keeps a register so you can find the contact details of your local FT. I would urge everyone to join and get involved – especially if you care about the NHS and believe that public services should be accountable to their users and communities.

Are the FTs nurturing their memberships and developing their accountability frameworks? There is guidance out there. Are the FTs applying it?

While giving users a choice is vital to ensuring that public services are responsive and effective, it is important that users have a voice and use it so they can be heard alongside professionals, managers and other interests. Voice is especially important in rural areas where the extent of choice is inevitably less wide.