Agenda item

Towards a Strategy for Social Inclusion in Breckland (Agenda Item 6)

Report of the Operations Manager – Cabinet. 




The Chairman welcomed Mr Kevin Ambrose from Ambrose Associates Consultancy Limited who had been invited to the meeting to report on progress and answer any questions the panel had with regard to the development of the strategy for social inclusion in Breckland. 


Members gave consideration to the consultant’s report, which would form the basis of the proposed LSP (Local Strategic Partnership) Social Inclusion Strategy. 


Mr Ambrose highlighted that as a key stakeholder in the LSP, Breckland Council was asked to consider his report on developing a Social Inclusion Strategy and action plan.  The LSP would consider and agree the main priorities (such as the overall vision, the strategic objectives and the main priorities for action) for tackling social exclusion. 


Members were informed that the report gave an overview of social exclusion in the district detailing what it meant to be deprived and isolated in a generally prosperous rural area.  The report also puts forward proposals for a strategic approach, aimed at enabling all organisations in the area to build on existing initiatives; address gaps in provision and overcome barriers to effective action. 


Mr Ambrose informed Members that since the last meeting he had built a picture of social exclusion in Breckland by engaging with the community involving holding workshops in Dereham, Swaffham and Thetford along with 1:1 meetings with key organisations.  In addition, a review of published research, local policies and plans was conducted and surveys of voluntary organisations were carried out.  The findings enabled him to identity who was affected by social exclusion and through this exclusion what role the LSP should play. 


Members received a progress report presentation of Mr Ambrose’s findings for their consideration.  Following discussion of the presentation and report, Members made the following comments:-


  • A Member raised concern regarding the lack of information in the consultant’s report in detailing the need to provide more transport in areas of rural deprivation.  Mr Ambrose explained that this was detailed in his report however, he accepted that it was perhaps not made very clear.  The LSP Officer explained that on page 8 of the report under ‘Transport and Access’ it detailed the problems with the lack of available transport in rural areas being a key factor in affecting young people’s access to employment and training as well as social and recreational activities.  In addition, Members were informed that on page 10 of the report under the heading ‘Transport and Access to Services’  it detailed the problems caused by the lack of public transport for older people that do not have access to a car – or are no longer able to run a car.  The LSP Officer advised Members that perhaps the information regarding the lack of public transport in areas of rural deprivation did need to be more explicit. 


  • A Member advised Mr Ambrose that the objectives in the report were very good however, regarding Thetford; he was concerned that there was a lack of good communication.  It was suggested that if the objectives from the Report were adopted and implemented this would be a great start for the Strategy.  Mr Ambrose acknowledged these comments and agreed that with meetings being held on an ad-hoc basis as they had in the past was simply not proactive enough for driving the strategy forward, and stressed the need for forum arena debates to share findings on a regular basis.


  • A query was raised as to why there had not been a workshop held in Watton.  In response, the LSP Officer advised Members that due to budget and timescale restrictions they had to pick only three of the five towns for the workshops however, they did receive representation from all five Towns. 


  • The Chairman stated that the report was very good and highlighted many great ideas however, he was concerned that it would not be an easy task as many of the social groups discussed in the report that were socially excluded did not see themselves as excluded.  Using the travelling community as an example, he felt that on the whole, they were generally healthy nevertheless, they were known to suffer from long term health problems due to the nature of their lifestyle however, despite being offered incentives to see doctors to help with health problems they would not accept help.  


  • A Member expressed concern that there needed to be careful consideration taken that they were not patronising in telling/advising people what they needed to be included in society.  It was stressed that everyone was very different in their needs and mindset often causing barriers between people and this must all be taken into account.  She explained that in the 12 years she had been a councillor the improvements in her area had been a result of local community helping one another and pushing initiatives.  Mr Ambrose agreed with the Councillors comments and reinforced the points made and suggested that they needed to work with local communities, taking on board what they saw as problems in their areas, helping where possible to empower local initiatives. 


Members thanked Mr Ambrose for his presentation and update and felt that the delivery of the Strategy would be a challenge for the LSP and wished them all the best. 


RESOLVED that when procuring the final Strategy and Action Plan, Officers take account of the comments detailed above.


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