Newsletter 12

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Sep 042013

 Issue 12    April 2013

The gathering place for the interests of people aged 50 plus

AGM NOTES        The AGM gives us a chance to tell members a little more about what the Committee and SDSAF Members have been up to this year and invite your comments.

It is also a time for nominations for Officers of the SDSAF (Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary) and for Committee members.  If we wish to keep growing then fresh input from our Members is always necessary.  It doesn’t have to be too time consuming but it could be useful all round! 

The AGM is almost upon us now and we hope you are coming!  Our main speaker is Ann Barnes, Kent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner.  Come and ask your questions on her work and policing inKent.  There’s probably more to the Youth Police and Crime Commissioner, Paris Brown, story than we have heard, and how about a commissioner representing us older folk!  The Commissioner spends £316 million of our money. Find out how.

COMMUNICATING WITH YOU Presently, just over 50% of our members receive newsletters by email.  We would like to see even more people receiving email information from us – every extra emailer is one less stamp!  Do you have an email address that we don’t know about? If so, please send a message to Roger Bryan, our Membership Secretary so you can be added to our emailing list without delay.

The AGM will be held at 2pm on Friday, 24th May at The Woodlands, Hilda May Avenue in Swanley.  This is a ticketed event, please email Roger Bryan on or call him on 01322 664754. 

We expect a decent crowd so do join the Members who have already booked. 

SECOND CHANCE ANIMAL RESCUE (SCAR) Volunteers are needed for this Crockenhill animal rescue centre. Those with a love of animals and a little spare time, may like to spend a moment looking at their website, or send an email to them for more info; phone 07804026773. Ask for John or Julie or email 

MEMBERSHIP    Currently, we have 284 Members and we are hoping that we might pass the 300 mark at or before the AGM.  You will see that we have moved the Membership Form off the newsletter this time to allow more room for news.  Could you give a form to one of your friends and neighbours to fill in?  Your friends can help us have a bigger voice for over 50s. 

EDENARA CONCERNS                    Frank McConnell gave a presentation to the Edenbridge Active Retirement Association (Edenara) in mid-April telling them what SDSAF is all about.  Twenty one new Members signed up to SDSAF.  Edenara members presented their concerns for over 50s and the results showed an outstanding problem with travel.  54 forms mentioned 117 points – an astonishing 68 of them about poor transport into and out of Edenbridge and the area around the town, the difficulty of getting to hospitals by public transport, and dissatisfaction with concessionary travel (bus passes).  These have to be major campaigning points for SDSAF.  For those of you who use the web, look at our Campaigns page on   

MISSING MI££IONS  Now this could be very useful!  And it’s FREE!  You don’t need to pay anyone to do it for you.  It’s easy although it can take up to three months to sort out.

Those nice people at the Banks have a scheme that helps you trace lost and forgotten accounts.  Telephone 0207 216 8909 or on the internet go to .    Apparently £15 billion of ‘forgotten money’ is sitting in bank and building society accounts and it’s nearly all yours – well, not yours personally, but ours!   

As always, there will be people who want to defraud you of your cash, so if you get an email or a letter from someone telling you that you have money in a ‘lost’ account, ignore it, do not give out your bank details, and call the number above instead.

There’s a PENSIONS VERSION of this too.  And that’s also free.  Did you work for a company some time ago and have lost your pension details?  Telephone 0845 600 2537 – this call might be free if your calling plan includes it – or use the internet –

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE WARM   It seems daft to be writing this now but you MIGHT be able to benefit from the Warm Home Discount Scheme for next winter (  There are a few conditions on this and these vary from energy company to energy company.  It might be worth calling your supplier and asking them if you qualify.  If you do, you could save a bit of money on your heating bills.  Also, there is a scheme called Green Deal – call 0300 123 1234 for details.  This scheme allows you to improve your home heating and insulation and pay back the cost over a period of time.  Give them a call for details or see and click on Green Deal and ECO.  PLEASE BE AWARE that there are companies that call themselves by similar names and some of them may be scams.  One calls me on a regular basis (how daft are they?), when I ask for their company details, they ring off.  No genuine company does that.

DEMENTIA FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES    We are getting some interest in dementia friendly communities.  Do you have an interest in that?  Call or email Geoff Parsons (see contact section of the newsletter).

 FOOD BANKS     Do you have information on Food Banks in the District?  We would like to tell all our Members where they are and exactly what they do.  We know that support is given to them in Swanley and in Sevenoaks but we don’t have full information.


A row of bottles on my shelf
Caused me to analyze myself.
One yellow pill I have to pop
Goes to my heart so it won’t stop.
A little white one that I take
Goes to my hands so they won’t shake.
The blue ones that I use a lot
Tell me I’m happy, when I’m not.
The purple pill goes to my brain
And tells me that I have no pain.
The capsules tell me not to wheeze
Or cough or choke or even sneeze.
The red ones, smallest of them all
Go to my blood so I won’t fall.
The orange ones, very big and bright
Prevent my leg cramps in the night.
Such an array of brilliant pills
Helping to cure all kinds of ills.
But what I’d really like to know…
Is what tells each one where to go!


Parts of the NHS are changing, with organisations such as Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) being abolished and new GP-led groups, known as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) taking on important roles; 1 April 2013 was the official handover date. In reality, though, the GP commissioning organisations have been working in shadow form for some time with the PCT gradually handing over responsibilities.

Within the Kent County Council area, there are seven CCGs (with one other serving Medway). They are responsible for planning the healthcare needs of their communities and buying (or commissioning) up to 80 per cent of health services in their area, including acute hospital care. One important aspect of GP commissioning will be to involve the patients and public within their CCG area to ensure patients/public have a voice in the services that are provided. One way is through Patient Participation Groups in each GP Surgery.

Some specialised commissioning, such as for military and offender health, will be the responsibility of the NHS Commissioning Board (NCB) which has been set up as part of the government reforms. The NCB, through its Kent and Medway Area Team will also commission primary care, dental and optical care. Part of the role of the NCB is to also oversee the CCGs.

On the wider organisation reforms, public health, which was part of PCTs, has been transferred to Kent County Council. They will have a Health and Well Being Board which will agree the priorities for improving the health and wellbeing of people in the area.  The hope is that this will lead to a better coordinated approach involving both health and social care people.  The Board will have representatives from local CCGs, public health and social care, councillors and representatives of Healthwatch.  Healthwatch is an organisation set up to give the public a stronger voice to influence and change how health and social care services are provided. 

As Kentis such a large county and with a mixed diversity, Local Health and Well Being Boards are also being set up in each CCG area to ensure all patients receive services that suit their differing requirements and needs. GPs and other health professionals will be involved in the boards, ensuring there is a better approach to health and social care than there has been in the past.


Refreshments and parking free!

Members will know that SDSAF moves its meetings around the District so that everyone has a chance to get to them!  If you would like to come to the AGM, contact Roger Bryan – see below.

 The membership form is available online at



Newsletter 11

 Welcome  Comments Off
Sep 042013


Congratulations to William Hamilton who has become the 250th Member of the Sevenoaks District Seniors Action Forum.  Now, who will be the 500th?  Or even the 300th?  Help us grow with the application form on the back page of this edition of the newsletter.  Maybe your neighbour will join?  With 250 Members, people listen to us.  We have already given great new information to our politicians and the hospital authorities on transport to hospitals, begun to put pressure on the powers that be on blue badge parking, raised awareness of defibrillators and community first responders and helped to change the way hospital appointments are given to older people.  In this issue of the newsletter, there is some startling news on how our hospitals are complying with the law.  How much stronger will we be with 500 Members?


As our next newsletter will not be hitting your mat until 2013 then now is the time to wish you the compliments of the season.  Last year we asked if everyone could be a good neighbour during the winter.  This winter has definitely started!


Since the last newsletter went out, dozens of our Members will have had very satisfactory medical help from the hospitals that serve our District.  However, if you have to deal with hospital management …

On Blue Badge Parking…

The long running saga of trying to get information out of Darent Valley Hospital is nearly over – they won’t tell us anything.  Yes, it’s a public service paid for by you and me and all the rest of us, but no, they don’t want to tell us how much money they are going to make out of disabled people parking at the hospital.

Darent Valley decided to start charging for blue badge parking.  The justification given for the charge was to cover the work of developing a special car park for blue badge holders.  When we questioned the hospital on these issues we were left feeling that there was far more to this than meets the eye.  Indeed we felt that hospital managers were deliberately being obstructive.  This led to us asking for and getting a meeting in which we questioned Kevin Rowan, an Assistant Director at the hospital.  He seemed very helpful but we still could not get to the real information that we wanted – ‘Is the hospital making a profit out of blue badge parking and if so how much?’

It seems that the Hospital prefers to hide behind their contractual relationship with Vinci Park (which runs the car parks) so they have not responded with any hard information to our request on how much it has cost to extend the car park to boost the number of blue badge spaces available.

We are not going to be told what the income is.  That’s a pity as it means that we can only guess – so let’s guess.  Vinci Park is part of the huge Vinci construction group so it won’t have cost them much at all to do the building work.  Let’s be really generous and say £20,000.  At £1 per visit, this cost will therefore be covered in 20,000 visits.   If a space is used three times a day then the 57 spaces will generate £171 per day. With increased use at weekends, I would suggest that this could mean £1500 per week or £78,000 per year.  They will have started making a profit out of blue badge holders from about May of 2012.  By the end of the year they may have made over £40,000 profit.  Is the hospital serious when they tell us that The Trust does not expect to receive any income from this arrangement in 2012?  Honest!  If you owned that land and franchised out the car parking, wouldn’t you expect a return?

They seem to have blown a real opportunity to gain a profit and put it into patient care.

So although the hospital is a publically funded service, we cannot get at the information on how much profit the hospital is allowing Vinci Parks to earn from us and what the hospital’s share is.  There’s something really wrong here.  Where is the openness in public service that we are supposed to expect?

And then, quite accidentally, we stumbled over another problem…


In trying to get at the parking information, we stumbled across something else.  When SDSAF put in a Freedom of Information Request about the financial figures on parking, the hospital failed to comply with the law in that they did not respond in the given time.  We were shocked by this and asked the Information Commissioner how many complaints it had had about the hospital failing to comply with this law.  Their answer was ‘None’.  No one had complained to the Information Commissioner that the hospital had failed to reply in time.

So we asked the hospital for their figures.  They emailed us ’from the latest available data (covering the 2011/12 year), 225 of the 300 requests received were completed within the statutory deadline (75%)’.  In classic Press Office style, they told us how well they had complied with the law.  But they could have said that they failed to comply with the law in 25% of cases or that out of 300 requests, they failed to comply in one in of every four.  Any business (or Council for that matter) would collapse if they broke the law 25% of the time.  Is this the way our hospitals should be managed?

If none of these cases was referred to the Information Commissioner, should we be doing so?  And what about the other hospitals in our region?  Is this a local illness?  Or something of a general disease?


  There are some concerns about Eurolocks.  They are the locks that we see these days on modern front and back doors.  If yours protrude like this, at left, then you may be advised to get them changed.  Apparently they are just too easy for the burglars!  This is an old design and can be replaced quite cheaply – the lock is not expensive but the fitting might cost you a bit. 

I am assured by my neighbour who fits these doors for a living that it’s an easy DIY job.  Put the key in the lock, undo the screw that holds the lock (it’s on the side edge of the door), turn the key slightly in the lock to pull the whole barrel out, push the new barrel in using its key and tighten the screw to hold it in place.  The new lock should protrude only a little as in the picture on the right.


Kent County Council has announced some changes to how their recycling plants now operate.  They will be introducing limitations on ‘certain materials’ and ‘ensuring that only household waste is accepted’ so that there will be ‘less queuing and less congestion’.  In my local yard, the only real queuing is caused by the contractors shutting everything down for 10 or 15 minutes whilst they do things.  Whilst they want to keep business people out of the domestic recycling facility, I sniff increased fly-tipping.  There will be a limit on the size of a trailer you can take in (2.05 metres or 6’8”, 35 cu ft capacity and no wider than the towing vehicle) and on the amount of hardcore that you can dump (therefore more fly-tipping).  Finally, a sack of asbestos (!) will cost you £5 to leave there as will two tyres.

It is illegal to dispose of waste from any business, trade, or commercial activity at these sites, as they are for household waste only.


I understand that parking will be free in Sevenoaks and Swanley on Saturdays 15 and 22 December to help with Christmas shopping in the Council’s car parks.  Sevenoaks Leisure Centre will also be included in this free parking.  Time limits will still apply.


With the economy in the state it is in, what we need is some creative thinking.  So, the local rail franchise is up for grabs from March 2014 – now wouldn’t it be good if our local politicians pressed for concessionary rail travel for Kent pensioners to go with our endangered bus passes?  The train companies with their profits can afford it even if the County Council says that it can’t.  Perhaps KCC could if the Government sorted out Fixing a Broken System on the next page.


Merilyn Canet reports; she attended a Kent LINk meeting on 29 November (Kent LINk is an organisation that links people or groups with an interest in health matters – like us).  They have been talking to the hospital at Pembury about transport (but not telling other people).  There is going to be a twice hourly bus service from Tonbridge station, not on Sundays.  It is proving a challenge to get action on this issue!  The people with the power to make decisions aren’t disabled, carless or very elderly.  Voluntary car services are overwhelmed with demand. They need more drivers and money to fund costs.  Cllr Mrs Dawson who is Chairman of the SDC Access group is disabled, carless and so does understand but she has been ill for some time and is awaiting an operation, so progress on the Access Group is suspended at present.  Any examples from our Members of transport to health services difficulties are welcomed.  Merilyn Canet.


Members may be aware that our local MP, Michael Fallon, is now the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise – surely an extremely important job in these economic days.  Michael’s portfolio includes business sectors, small business, deregulation, economic development, Royal Mail, and much more.


The Councils in the South East have published this document and it details the unfairness of the way central Government dishes out grant monies to councils round the country.  We have already highlighted to Members that London Boroughs get far more per person that we get in Kent and of course Bexley and Bromley are two of our neighbours in Sevenoaks District.  Your neighbour across the border in Bexley or Bromley is much better supported than we are.  Fixing a Broken System is the response from the South East England Councils and a copy can be seen on the web at or call 020 8541 7555.  It is a very good read even at 17 pages!


Geoff Parsons tells me that; the “SDSAF Project Defibrillator continues albeit slowly! Hands have been relatively slow to help with the oars. Nevertheless some progress is apparent in the wider context;

  • There are now several prospective groups wanting an automated external defibrillator (AED) or a public access defibrillator (PAD) in their areas;
  • Support for Community First Responders (CFR) continues, e.g. a local charity is raising funds for equipment and training, and a trainee CFR has been appointed to cover Farningham, Eynsford, and Swanley Village;
  • A Patient Participation Group is likely to get an AED in due course;
  • The SDSAF Directory (of where defibrillators are located) is being updated.”

If you want more information on this project, there is a lot of information on our website or talk to Geoff via the contact details in this newsletter.  He’d be happy to talk to you especially if you would like to help!


This very useful four inch high container sits in the fridge.  The idea is that you put your medical details into it and pop it in the cold.  No, it doesn’t actually need keeping cool but in an emergency, that’s where the police or ambulance crew will look for one of these.  They will understand your medical conditions by looking into the box and if you can’t tell them, the contents of the box will!

If you would like one, call Alan or Chris Walter on 01732 461255.  They tell me they have plenty to give away.


How important ‘Three Little Words’ can be, in this case, nothing to do with the heart, just cold callers on the phone.  All the advice is not to get annoyed but instead to play tactics!  Say ‘Hold On, Please…’, quietly put the phone down, and walk away for five minutes.  When you hear ‘beep, beep, beep’ you know it’s time to go back and hang up your handset. You’ve done your job.  If everyone did that then telephone marketing would become pointless.

I’ve just had a call from someone calling themselves The Energy Care Trust and claiming to be a government backed organisation.  They were offering all kinds of things to reduce my energy bills.  I asked them for their telephone number.  They gave me a number that doesn’t exist.  When I asked for their address, the line went dead.  They have bad publicity on the web.  Be careful.

The Telephone Preference Service is, on the whole, pretty good at stopping these calls but they can’t stop them all.  UK companies sometimes deliberately use foreign call centres to get round British law.  Who would want to use a British company who did that!  Register with the TPS online or on 0845 070 070 7.

The Mail Preference Service is very good at reducing junk mail through the letter box (also on 0845 070 070 7).  Junk mail through my letterbox has almost dried up – it’s now the Post Office itself that is the biggest culprit.


John Arnold (centre) of Rural Age Concern Darent Valley met with SDSAF Committee Members Roger Bryan (left), Geoff Parsons (right) and Frank McConnell in November to discuss areas of mutual interest.  We had a couple of hours together which was helpful all round as it is very important that organisations that work for people over 50 coordinate their efforts and do not get in each other’s way.  SDSAF works as a communicator of information and as a campaigning group.  We don’t provide the excellent services that Age UK and Rural Age Concern Darent Valley provide.  Also we don’t provide the very welcome regular social gatherings that many groups cater for.  John Arnold and your committee colleagues were in agreement that people over 50 need a strong voice when talking with politicians at every level.  We can provide that strong voice when we work together and when our numbers are big enough for the decision makers to sit up and take notice.  With 250 Members we have come to the right size, with 500 Members, we’d be even stronger.  Do you have friends who are not yet Members?  There is an application form on the back page of this edition.  Help!


Members who have blue badges will know that KCC has upped their price for renewing them to £10.  The forms to be filled in are available from KCC or on the web.  They look far more complicated than they used to be.


Independent candidate Ann Barnes has been elected as Kent’s first Police and Crime Commissioner saying she wants to be the “most visible and accessible PCC in the UK” (BBC News Kent) so SDSAF has invited to speak at one of our meetings.  We await her response.  Ms Barnes received 65.5% of the vote after the second round, having had 46.8% of first preferences (almost double her nearest rival).


Late news has come in that the merger plan of the two hospitals has now been sent for assessment and agreement to higher authorities.  More details next time and soon on our website


Be a good neighbour this winter.

Do you have a neighbour who may need a little help?


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