Saturday, 11 January 2014

My comments in support of proposed Thetford Skatepark

I wish to write in support of the proposed Thetford Skatepark application. Planning Ref: 3PL/2013/1108/F

Despite being a representative for the Saxon Ward, located towards the South of Thetford, I feel that this is a project that would benefit all young people in Thetford and those from further afield, and I am therefore pleased to offer it my full support.

It has long been an aspiration of townsfolk to have a skatepark and there have been many attempts to find a desirable location for it. In truth, there is clearly not a perfect location – if it were, then it would have been identified by now.

But, despite being at one extreme of the town, the proposed location is easily accessible and next to Thetford Academy, where the vast majority of beneficiaries of the site will attend for their education. The ability to use this site for skate-boarding, BMX’ing or blading before or after school is an added convenience.  Regarding its location, and comments expressed by some opponents of the proposal, surely the most important views on its accessibility and location are those held by the young people themselves? I am yet to find a young person who has complained to me about the location, they would just be grateful to have a skatepark at all. Young people today are exceptionally mobile, and Thetford is really not that large – so concerns expressed by adults on its location, are somewhat of a red herring.

It was heartening to know that Thetford Academy was strongly supporting the application in this location, recognising that as well as a good standard of education, it is important that young people have the opportunity to exercise, and enjoy something that they feel passionate about, in this case – skateboarding, or bmx’ing or blading. A well-managed site will surely assist with improvements in educational attainment locally?

The fact that the school site has expanded, and includes many dual-use community facilities, such as the multi-use games area is also to the applications advantage. I note that the previous proposals to construct the additional facilities at the Academy received no objection from Croxton Parish Council, or nearby residents, so I would expect support also for this latest addition which surely complements the sporting ‘offer’ available?

Comments received regarding anti-social behaviour etc. are classic ‘nimby’ type comments and probably reveal more about the prejudices of those making them than anything else. Throughout my years as a Youth worker, prior to becoming a Councillor, I always found that the skateboard/bmx’ing fraternity to be predominantly polite and respectful young people who take their hobby/sport very seriously. Young people involved in campaigning for a skatepark have shown determination and patience in their quest, and I hope that their efforts are duly rewarded with the final construction of this facility.

Careful management of the site, in conjunction with users of the facility, by Thetford Town Council, will ensure that the site is well-looked after and incidents of anti-social behaviour are kept to an absolute minimum. I commend this application to you and would urge the Planning Committee to support it.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Terry Jermy

Norfolk County Councillor – Thetford West Division (including the ‘Ladies Estate area – located opposite the proposed development)

Thetford Town and Breckland District Councillor – Thetford Saxon Ward

Monday, 6 January 2014

One family's experience of what health service delays can mean

The Jermy Family
Thetford, Norfolk

Atos Healthcare complaints – via
Department for Work and Pensions – Independent Case Examiner - via
Chief Executive, West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds IP33 2QZ
Elizabeth Truss MP for South West Norfolk – via 

Doctors Wilford & Butcher, Grove Lane Surgery, Grove Lane, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2HY

                                    Monday 5th January 2014

Dear All,

Re: Mr Trevor Jermy, National Insurance Number: XXXXXX

We are writing to complain about the length of time taken to process a Personal Independence Payment (PIP – formerly known as Disability Living Allowance) for our father Mr Trevor Jermy. And we are furthermore writing to complain about the quality of care that our father has received from the National Health Service following his stroke and the speed at which information has been provided by healthcare professionals to enable our father to receive crucial financial support.

Our father suffered a severe stroke on Friday 16th August 2013 and was admitted to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. He remained in hospital for a period of three weeks and for the first week he was only able to receive nutrients via a drip and for the second week via pureed food. The hospital environment, with very strict visiting rules and some quite elderly stroke victims surrounding him was not conducive to dad’s recovery so it was agreed that he would be released home on the basis that our mother – Elaine Jermy – would be able to care for him. This was despite our mothers own hearing difficulties. The stroke itself was a complete shock for our father, and the family. Dad is only 55 years of age and had never had a stroke before.

Our father’s physical abilities and cognitive skills have been severely affected as a result of the stroke and he was confined to a bed for six weeks upon arriving home. The family was told that he would be able to receive weekly physiotherapy at home; but three weeks passed with no visit. It wasn’t until a family member queried this that a visit was forthcoming. There have been numerous physiotherapy appointments that were made, but people did not turn up for – and did not telephone ahead to cancel the visits, creating additional concern and worry for the family. Once being sent home, no medical personnel visited the home to check on ours father’s progress for several weeks, and a visit only occurred when our mother telephoned the local surgery and a Doctor subsequently visited.

At no stage were the family informed about any entitlement to benefits and it was only through independent research that the family became aware of PIP. Therefore, on the 24th September 2013, a claim was lodged on behalf of our father by a family member for the Personal Independence Payment. A letter was issued from the Department of Work and Pensions on the 1st October requesting additional information. This was completed and returned the same day. Following this, a 36 page questionnaire was sent to us on the 15th October 2013; this was promptly completed and returned. We were then written to on the 3rd November 2013, stating that the questionnaire had not been received – so we telephoned to query this, as it had already been sent. It was confirmed to us by the telephone call that the paperwork had indeed been received successfully.

At the end of November, we telephoned again for an update and were informed that our claim was waiting to be processed. We were informed that they were specifically awaiting medical information to decide whether or not a mobility assessment would be needed.

During December, we telephoned ATOS to ask for an update on the claim and were told that it was “awaiting processing”. We made it clear that the financial assistance was desperately needed and asked for an anticipated decision date, which they were unable to provide.

As of today (5th January 2014) – we have still not received any update regarding the PIP claim, despite the process initiating on the 24th September 2013.

Our mother is unable to claim Carers Allowance until Dads PIP claim has been resolved. It is our understanding that whilst the PIP payment can be backdated to the claim date, the Carers Allowance will only be backdated for a maximum of 12 weeks. Therefore, with the delay in processing the PIP, our mother is losing money that she is entitled to via the Carers Allowance. Furthermore, our father’s eyesight was greatly affected by the stroke and he is in need of an eye test and glasses, but cannot afford this. Once the PIP has been awarded then he is eligible for free eye treatment.

Our father was paid his basic salary by his employer whilst in hospital for a period of three weeks until he was transferred onto Statutory Sick Pay of £86.70 a week. Dad undertook a very manual role as an engineer locally for the same employer for the past 25 years. Following Dads stroke, Mum took annual leave from her employer initially, and then sick pay for a short period and was signed off work by a Doctor due to stress. Mum was put onto Statutory Sick Pay on 28th October 2013.

Therefore, the entire household income has been reduced from Dads 39 hour a week job, and Mums 30 hour a week job, to just £173.40 a week between them. This amount does not even cover the monthly mortgage payment. When Dad had the stroke he severely damaged his car, and after considerable delay and hard work on behalf of family members, the insurance company paid out £2,500 based on the cars value. This money to a large extent is what they have been living off since the stroke, with additional support being provided by family members where possible.

Both Mum and Dad have worked since the age of 16 and given significant sums of money through tax and national insurance contributions. Even when mum gave birth to us, she was back at work within six weeks. In the months prior to dad’s stroke he was paying £200 a week in tax and national insurance contributions as well as contributing £40 a week towards his own private pension. In the last financial year, according to his P60, Dad paid £5,859.60 in tax and a further £3,389.02 in National Insurance.

For somebody that has worked so hard, contributed to society and paid his way in life, we find his treatment and support available since his stroke to be utterly deplorable.

If it were not for the car insurance pay-out, and the ability of a few family members to support them financially, our parents would be in a desperate state of affairs, and likely to be adding to the queues at the local Foodbank.

To add insult to injury – Dad’s appointment at West Suffolk Hospital’s ‘Elderly and Stroke Medicine Clinic’ for a review, originally scheduled for Friday 17th January 2014, has recently been postponed until Friday 14th March 2014!

In addition to this, the family have been making attempts to make a claim through Dads critical illness insurance policy. This was initiated during September. On the 1st October 2013 the policy provider – XXXXX, wrote to us to say that they had written to both Grove Lane Surgery and West Suffolk Hospital to request medical information about Dad. Then, on the 4th November 2013, XXXXX wrote to us again to say that they had received some information from Grove Lane Surgery, but would be requesting further information and that West Suffolk Hospital had failed to respond at all. XXXXXX telephoned West Suffolk Hospital and spoke to the relevant Doctor’s Secretary who informed them that they had not received the original request. XXXXXXXX duly sent the request via fax that same day. On the 12th November 2013, XXXXXXX wrote to us to say that they had still not received any information from West Suffolk Hospital. This claim has still not been processed and we have still not received any financial support from this policy.

We hope that this letter may serve on a personal level to ensure the prompt completion of the PIP process and serve as a wider wake-up call that the system is clearly failing.

Yours sincerely,

Terry Jermy                           Michelle Jermy                                 Ricky Jermy              

Friday, 3 January 2014

Charles Burrell security costs article in EDP

Personally, I think a more fitting headline would have been "Conservative in-action wastes £60k+ of tax-payers money". I wrote to Derrick Murphy as Leader of Norfolk County Council in 2011. I warned that Charles Burrell would be closing as a school and that this would be a huge loss for the local community and would inevitably cost the County Council money if it did not act. Despite that warning, that's pretty much precisely what happeed! The site ceased operation as a school around July 2013 and the Council had to engage a security firm to keep the site safe. The cost does seem incredibly high - but then whatever the bill is / was - this could have been entirely avoided with more proactive thinking on behalf of the Council. 

Let's hope there will be no security costs being incurred very soon when the site is transferred to Thetford Town Council and it becomes a vibrant community hub.