East Sussex County Council

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East Sussex County Council is the upper-tier local authority covering the county of East Sussex. The main services it provides include education, roads and transport, social care, public health, waste disposal, economic development, libraries, strategic planning and environment. The County Council has 49 councillors who are elected by residents of East Sussex. The current political make-up of East Sussex County Council is:

  • 20 Conservative
  • 10 Liberal Democrats
  • 7 Labour
  • 7 UK Independence
  • 3 Independent
  • 2 Independent Democrats

The five East Sussex County Council departments and their main responsibilities are:

  • Adult Social Care – provide social care services for residents over 16, including residential care and sensory care services. It also includes the Public Health Department.
  • Governance Services – provides overall governance aspects of the council including legal and constitutional arrangements.
  • Children’s Services – provide social care for people under 16, state education and other childcare services.
  • Business Services – responsible for managing finances, IT, human resources, procurement and property.
  • Communities, Economy and Transport – responsible for community services such as libraries and registrars, customer access/services, roads, transport planning, economy and the East Sussex environment.

Both elected representatives (councillors) and paid employees (council officers) work together to supply these services for East Sussex. View the East Sussex Suicide Prevention Plan.

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Organisation Details

Address East Sussex County Council, East C, County Hall, St Anne's Crescent, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1UE
Website new.eastsussex.gov.uk
Twitter EastSussexCC
Facebook eastsussexCC

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

East Sussex County Council Public Health Department are responsible for co-ordinating suicide prevention work across East Sussex. Two groups support this work:

  • The East Sussex Suicide Prevention Group (ESSPG) - a multi- agency forum responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive suicide prevention programme.
  • The Beachy Head Risk Management Group – a multi-agency advisory group, focusing predominantly on reducing suicide at Beachy Head (a local suicide hotspot), which reports to the ESSPG.

Both of these groups are chaired by an ESCC consultant in public health and ESCC public health also provides administrative support. The work of these groups is currently complemented by time limited funding for a specific project covering five interrelated work streams.  The initiatives are geared towards addressing the overall suicide rate in East Sussex and also addressing issues specifically related to Beachy Head. We have recently commissioned the following initiatives:

  • Counselling Partnership ‘Survivors of Suicide’ counselling service;
  • Grassroots ASIST and SafeTALK training for voluntary and statutory organisation;
  • IT and communications support and training for Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team;
  • ‘Place of Calm’ a service which provides emotional and practical support to people who are distressed following a suicide crisis at Beachy Head;
  • A review of the infrastructure at Beachy Head from Dr Christabel Owens, Exeter University, and are in the process of considering and taking forward agreed  recommendations.

We are working with our local mental health trust to develop their suicide plan for East Sussex; this will be integrated into the overall plan for the County. We analyse and report on local data obtained from ONS and conduct local audits of data obtained from the local Coroner’s Office; this is used to inform our local suicide prevention work.

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What are your current priorities?

We have commissioned Grassroots to implement and run this training programme. The contract divides those being offered training into different categories e.g. voluntary sector, private businesses, statutory sector. The training has been extremely popular and the feedback has been excellent. By building up the number of people in the community that have been trained we hope to create a more ‘suicide friendly community’.

The ‘place of calm’ is a pilot non-statutory ‘place of safety’ for those in Eastbourne who are distressed but not actively suicidal and may have been through some kind of suicidal crisis. The project is being developed and run by a partnership of Sussex Oakleaf (a mental health provider) and Recovery Partners (a peer led service). The ‘place of calm’ is a comfortably furnished room located within a well-being centre in Eastbourne. Guests can stay for up to 24 hours and will receive both practical and emotional support. An external evaluation of the pilot will take place between January and March 2016 to identify whether the project has been successful and can continue and to ensure that any learning is shared so that it can be used by anyone wanting to set up something similar in their own areas.

We are working with a group of senior officers from ESCC, Eastbourne Borough Council, Natural England, South down Natural Park and members of the Beachy Head Risk Management Group to take forward agreed recommendations from the report. This is challenging as we work in a political environment and also there is a need to balance different stakeholder interests ie conservation, tourism and suicide prevention.

As mentioned previously we are commissioning someone/an organisation to rectify some of our data issues including accessing archived records with the Coroner’s consent, amending our data collection processes, inputting a backlog of data. This will enable us to audit local suicides to inform our future prevention initiatives.

We are currently working with National Samaritans to address some of the media reporting and communication issues we have experienced locally. This is particularly important as we have a suicide hotspot in East Sussex and we want to ensure that we minimise publicity of this site.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

It takes time for new projects to be established as there are important governance processes and procedures that must be followed to commission new services. The projects we have commissioned have time limited funding (2 years for the counselling and training projects and 1 year for the ‘Place of Calm’). We are working closely with all the projects to support them in identifying further funding. Inconsistency in the representation of some agencies at the East Sussex suicide prevention group has been an issue, in that it delays the implementation of agreed actions. We are exploring how we might work more closely with a neighbouring authority to reduce the number of meetings some of the agencies need to attend. Our local audit data is incomplete and so cannot currently be used to inform our local work. We are in the process of commissioning someone/an organisation to address the gaps in data collection, input a backlog of data and redesign our data collection mechanisms.

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