Well it maybe “au revoir” to Le Grand Depart which graced our streets a few weeks ago but I thought it might be worth reflecting on this once in a lifetime event from a social care/health perspective and what the legacy from the event could be.
Firstly, I would like to thank everyone across the sector who in the weeks and months prior to the Tour coming to Leeds and Yorkshire worked tirelessly to make sure care services in the city, particularly for those living on or near the route were maintained as much as possible. I know that this required a lot of extra work for people on top of “the day job” and I’m sure at times caused some frustrations and sleepless nights. However, I hope from the reaction of people in Leeds, as elsewhere in Yorkshire, who came out in their hundreds of thousands to see the spectacle, all that effort was worthwhile. Over the weekend of the Tour, staff in Adult Social Care and Public Health alongside colleagues in the health service worked tirelessly to make sure services were maintained for service users. And providers of care services such as homecare organisations went the extra mile to make sure their clients were not inconvenienced either.
I went to meet the group of older people from Holt Park Active who had knitted the yellow top for the Black Prince in City Square, as their handiwork was being fitted to the statue. Likewise, the ladies from Holbeck Elderly Aid, who I joined for a cup of tea at their impromptu tea party in City Square, who were rightly very proud of their crocheting of a top for one of the nymphs.
The city centre was abuzz the whole day with all kinds of activities taking place and people of all ages enjoying their city centre together. It made me think however about the issue of how friendly and accessible our city is, particularly the city centre and if one legacy of the Tour could be to strive to making our city more accessible for those who currently do not find it to be so, whether they be older people, people with disabilities, learning disabilities, sensory impairments or mental health issues.
This was very much the basis of the discussion and requests at the Learning Disability take over day of the Council Chamber kicking off Learning Disability week in June. Here we heard loud and clear about the barriers people with learning disabilities face in terms of transport, employment and being able to fully socialise in their city. Subjects that the new Leeds Learning Disability People’s Parliament will be pursuing and seeking real action.
It was also behind the paper I took to the Council’s Executive Board a couple of weeks ago about Age Friendly Leeds. We’ve been accepted as one of only seven UK members of the World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly City Network and the paper highlighted a checklist of measures/areas for improvement the city will have to make if we are to be truly Age Friendly. It’s not just an Adult Social Care issue but a responsibility of every department in the council and indeed of our partners in the city too. The city’s work around creating Dementia Friendly communities such as ‘Dementia Friendly Rothwell’ were highlighted as well as the massive issue of loneliness and social isolation.
We are of course all keeping our fingers crossed that we are successful in our bid to the Big Lottery Fulfilling Lives which could bring up to £6million into the city to help tackle social isolation and loneliness.
International Day of Older People in October in Leeds will have as its theme ‘how do older people view and engage with cultural activity in the city’ and will feed into Light Night on 3rd October (www.lightnightleeds.co.uk). This is one night of the year when the city centre comes alive with music, dance, performance, and art activity and you see people of all ages enjoying what the city has to offer.
We’ve made great strides over the years on the Changing Places toilet facilities around the city and Safe Places for people with learning disabilities. I have met and will continue to meet with individuals and groups representing those with disabilities, sensory impairments and mental health issues in addition to older people’s and learning disability groups to see how, keeping that legacy of the Tour in mind, we can make our city more accessible for all of our residents.