Cllr Joe Carlebach: H&F Labour councillors reject plea to engage with vulnerable residents

joecarCllr Joe Carlebach is a councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward and the Hammersmith and Fulham Vulnerable People’s Champion

It’s a mad world!

The words of the song by Tears for Fears ( a band of the 1980s for those of you who are too young to remember them!) came to mind last week at the Hammersmith and Fulham full Council meeting. If you have never been to one of these meetings, they are usually three hours of solid political banter with occasional glimpses of debating prowess on the part of both parties.

My approach to Council meetings has always been one of constructive engagement. It is an opportunity, when in power, to listen to what the opposition has to say and, when in opposition, to constructively hold the administration to account. This is what I believe residents would expect. So it was with sadness and surprise that in a debate on a motion about the Administration’s new Area Health Forums I tabled what I thought was a constructive unpolitical amendment, and it was voted down!

These new forums do, on the face of it look like a positive development. I would support any opportunity where residents have the chance to express their concerns and views on all aspects of health care in our borough to health care providers.

I know from painful experience that residents from vulnerable groups have a disproportionately difficult time gaining fair access to health care. I have worked on many cases where this has happened and I am confident there are many cases out there that I do not know about with exactly this experience. It was in light of this that I tabled the following amendment to the motion, expecting (perhaps naively) that all Councillors would feel able to support it.

For your information here is the exact text of my amendment. For those well versed in the intricacies of Council life, this was an addition to the Administration’s text, not altering it in any other way:

Amendment to Special Motion 7

– The Council recognises that the health needs of our vulnerable residents are often complex and diverse requiring specific detailed multi disciplinary care solutions.

– The Council will make every effort to ensure that invitations are extended to the Neighborhood Health Care Forums to groups representing our vulnerable residents and in particular those representing and working with children and adults with all forms of disabilities as well as the frail elderly.

I am still at a loss to understand why this amendment was voted down.

One of the main reasons given on the night was that these forums are for individuals not groups. I have to say, having worked with many of the groups representing vulnerable people for many years, they are almost entirely made up of service users and families of people with disabilities, complex needs, the frail elderly etc. So for me this reasoning is not correct nor does it sound reasonable. Our residents will make their own judgement.

I would like to end with the statement that I started with which is in opposition I have done my best to take a constructive approach to ensure that the needs of vulnerable people are addressed. However (I say again) I also believe it is the role of the opposition to hold the Administration to account when the situation merits it. That is how good democracy works.

The rejection of my amendment was very disappointing and I would go so for as to say incomprehensible. The real losers of this disagreement will be the very people we are all trying to help, namely the most vulnerable residents in our borough and that is deeply regrettable.

Ever the optimist I am hopeful that the administration will experience a change of heart and see sense. As Martin Luther King said “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

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