Politically Speaking Column in Wakefield Express

With deep cuts in police budgets meaning the loss of 1,500 police posts in West Yorkshire alone, it’s little wonder that frontline policing has been in the news. But there’s increased pressure on crime prevention services right across the board. I visited Wakefield probation service recently for an update on the vital work they do working with offenders and ex-offenders to steer them away from crime and to keep our communities safe. Rob Voakes and his team do a fantastic job and work with around 2,000 people every year. During my visit I met one former offender who’s rehabilitation has been so successful that he’s now running projects to support others to follow in his footsteps.


Ed Balls MP and Wakefield probation service

Probation officers are true unsung heroes. Each probation success keeps someone out of prison and saves the taxpayer a fortune. But rather than simply being concerned to protect his own service, Rob’s real worries were much wider. He was worried about increasing levels of alcohol abuse which often go hand in hand with criminal behaviour. And he’s worried about other services he relies on facing deep cuts. Some local mental health support services are facing closure and young people’s jobs programmes are closing even though youth unemployment is skyrocketing. These are difficult times and like all families every public service has to tighten its belt, but big cuts to preventative services that save the taxpayer money in the long run can’t be right. It might look good on the balance sheet in the short term but we could all be paying a higher price further down the line. 

As the weather gets chillier, the elderly are more at risk from trips, falls and accidents. Every fall is costly for the individual concerned, their family as well as NHS services and the care support system. Yet Age UK estimate that over a million falls could be prevented. Their advice is that everyone in later life undertake physical activities at least twice a week to improve muscle strength. I’ve been asked to be ‘Falls Champion’ for Morley and Outwood and am proudly taking on the challenge.

The other Friday, in my role as Falls Champion, I was I visited St Swithins Court in Stanley for a fitness class. Keeping active needn’t mean running round the park or charging up and down hills. The Age UK exercise classes can be done sitting down at home with just music and a chair as props. If there are friends and family who can join in, so much the better. Over the coming months I’ll continue to bang the drum for all older people to have access to exercise and activities so we can reduce the number of falls. More details on how you can keep active are available from Age UK.

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Posted November 25th, 2011 by Ed

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