In a speech, Councillor Sunderland said:
“Over the last few months, I’ve seen both the best and the worst of the NHS and Social Care. I am one of those people who went to the hospital, not with Covid or cancer, but not sure if that was the last time I would see my family. I am also part of a family who watched their loved one slowly deteriorate through a small gap in a window. Whilst there can be no criticism of front-line staff, there is so much that we can learn from our collective experiences to make life better moving forward.
It is not about getting to a vaccine and then we’ll go back to normal. There is a line in the Council’s Plan which talks about the challenges we face before the pandemic being the same as the ones we face beyond it, which struck me as being naive. There is not a world you can live in that says we just return to normal.
The Council plan was barely responded to, and of those that did 40% think there are some things that should be a priority are missing from our list. Shockingly, 25 years on from the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act, a third of people responding said a health issue or disability prevented them from doing the things they needed to do.
We cannot just pick up the pieces and carry on.
Look at the headline figures from the research: is the Council actually prepared for a 30% shrinkage in our economy in less than a year? We’ve bid, along with the rest of West Yorkshire for more money to help but what is our local plan expecting to deliver? We know the major impact that being outdoors can have on health. But where is the upheaval of our plans for making sure that people can have a home? We still have a plan to build more Band D properties to raise Council Tax. When will we change our plans and make sure that everyone can have access to a home they can afford with a downstairs toilet, a garden and a footpath in an accessible countryside?
Have we actually thought about the possible thousands of children who have recently experienced the death of a parent or a grand-parent – auntie - uncle – no farewell visits, no time to prepare or adjust or grieve. Just how are we going to help them and their families cope with that trauma? Young Minds recently reported that 69% of young people reported their mental health as poor now that they are back at school, less than a third of young people had had a one-to-one conversation with a teacher or other member of staff and a quarter said there was less mental health support that before Covid.
Age UK described their recent report as a “wake-up call” about the amount of support older people were going to need to get them through the winter. What changes are we going to have to make to support the hundreds of additional people with long term respiratory ill-health from Covid? How much additional support do we need to find for those who delayed seeking treatment or who have had their treatment deferred? We are not going to be able to return to business as normal we are going to have a recovery plan and a resilience plan.
Everyone has had a different experience. We need to find a way to gather those experiences alongside real data to understand the task of recovery. There are research projects in train via the Institute of Health Research however our Council Plan consultation tells us that people feel they are missing. The community cannot be included by inserting the word community into a council document. People have to feel that their experiences matter. Currently, we are dividing policy into Living with Covid and business as usual measured by most of the usual key performance indicators. There does not seem to be a point at where we gather the data and experience together to make a recovery and resilience plan at that very local community level.
We would like to see the convening of all-party local Covid Recovery Forums where the experiences of people can be brought together to inform local recovery and build local resilience.
We would like to see these Covid-Recovery Forums perhaps develop local themes. I’m pretty sure that climate change and the recovery of health in the natural environment would be one key to any forum the Liberal Democrat councillors would become involved in. It falls to me to say thank you for all the ongoing selfless giving of oneself that every front-line worker and their families have undertaken.
My own personal journey has been both difficult and at the same time inspiring. It was made possible only through the work and acts of others. Our recovery from Covid depends on the Council taking note of the experiences of people across the District, collecting their views and then acting on them.”