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Margaret Hodge to lead pioneering Early Action Commission in Southwark

Margaret Hodge is set to lead Southwark’s new Early Action Commission that aims to bring together services to prevent harmful social issues before they become problems.

The commission, which is the first of its kind, will look at how the council, NHS, police and voluntary sector, can work together to prevent problems that damage people’s lives and trigger demands for expensive services like hospitals and prisons – with ultimate savings for the taxpayer.

Southwark is an area facing many challenges which gives the Commission a lot of areas it could choose to focus on. Some examples of early suggestions are:

  • Childhood obesity: 26% of children in school year six in Southwark are obese – the highest rate in England.
  • Violent crime: The area has 18.6 recorded violent offenses committed on the person per 1,000 people, compared with 10.6 in England.
  • Long-term claimants of Jobseekers Allowance: Southwark has 15.4 per 1,000 of the working age population on JSA, compared with 9.9 per 1,000 for England.
  • Permanent admissions to residential care or nursing homes: 700 people were admitted per 100,000 of the population, compared with 478.2 across the whole of London.

Margaret Hodge, the member of parliament for Barking & Dagenham and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “I am very pleased to have this opportunity to help turn the idea of early action into real change. This is a common sense idea that most sign up to in principle. The challenge is to embed it – as a matter of priority - in decisions about investing resources and taking practical action.”

The focus will be decided in the initial stages of the Commission’s work. Early research points to three areas where early action is needed:  education and employment; well-being, isolation and socialisation; and housing, social spaces and networks.

Gordon McCullough, chief executive of Community Action Southwark, said: “I hope the Commission will prompt a paradigm shift in how we design and use public services. I would like to see a move away from providing expensive, last minute crutches to people in crises, and towards focusing on services that prevent those crises from emerging in the first place. The voluntary and community sector has a large amount of preventative capacity.”

The Commission will work closely with the Southwark Health and Wellbeing Board, and with a special advisory group to test ideas for practical implementation. It is due to report in March 2015.

(Image: c. Labour)

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