Friday was busy and started with a visit to Maximus’ Work Programme Centre, in the middle of Horsham town. Thankfully the majority of people reading this won’t have used Maximus’ services but for some they prove invaluable.
What do they do? Well, they work intensively with people who’ve been unemployed for at least six months and haven’t had any luck at the Job Centre.
Their clients include managers who’ve been made redundant, people who’ve worked all their lives, people who’ve always struggled to find and keep jobs and people whose problems with literacy or drugs need addressing before they can successfully look for work. Their tailor-made plans have helped lots of local people and they do good work – a really interesting and informative visit.
Next was one of my regular catch-ups with the chief executive of SaSH, which runs East Surrey Hospital. It was an opportunity to discuss local people’s experiences at East Surrey and I was pleased to learn what the trust has been doing to improve things.
We also discussed plans for a new hospital for Horsham and Crawley – which are very much still alive. I really do welcome any improvements at East Surrey but nothing can change the fact that it’s in the wrong place, surrounded by congested roads. It’s inaccessible to West Sussex residents, who, after all, make up over half their patients.
Continuing the ‘health’ theme, later in the afternoon I met the chief executive of NHS West Sussex, the PCT for our area. We were joined by two people at the heart of the reforms which, from April, will see GPs taking over commissioning responsibilities from PCTs. It’s a significant and hugely positive change, which will be great for patients. I’m delighted that local GPs have embraced it so thoroughly.
I was also pleased to meet with Ros Parker, chief executive of Aspire. On September 1, Aspire, a new charitable company, replaced West Sussex Adult and Community Service and will continue to provide and promote learning opportunities for people throughout Sussex.
Some 500 staff, formerly employed by WSCC, transferred to Aspire. The 14,000 students taking over 2,000 courses will only see improvements in the services available to them, much of which is down to the inspirational leadership of Ros and her team of trustees.
I’m delighted that Aspire, the first mutual to emerge from adult education, has been helped by the Cabinet Office’s Mutual Support Programme – it’s something I feel passionate about.
Readers who’d like more information should go to: www.westsussex.gov.uk/adulteducation.