25th March 2013 — Police and Members Tips plus Updates

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Minutes of General Meeting

Held on 25th March 2013 at 2:30pm
At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

There were 24 Members and guests present, including David Wilkinson, Chairman; Shaun McGarry, Vice Chairman; Wendy George, Treasurer; Judy Morrow, Secretary; Dave Slater, Norfolk Constabulary and Ian Hardy, Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

David Wilkinson, Chairman, opened the meeting, and there was a minute’s silence in memory of Charlie Johnson, a much loved member who had died the previous week.

Those present introduced themselves in the usual way. Apologies for absence had been received from Ray Allard, Linda McGirk and Penny Parker.

The Committee apologised that there had been a delay in sending out the audio version of the minutes of the previous meeting.

Matters Arising

Wendy reminded everyone about the availability of equipment to purchase from the Resource Centre at the NNAB office on Hall Quay.

Chairman’s Update

David had been in further consultation about the St George’s redevelopment, because the access was still not safe for visually impaired and disabled people. The ramp and railings were to be looked again. David would be involved in discussions about the development of the outdoor performance area, and there was to be a meeting in April. Details of forthcoming events at St George’s were discussed.

Sensory Support – the proposed cutbacks in the Sensory Support Unit had been implemented, and Members were concerned about the impact this would have on the assessment and training of people with newly diagnosed sensory impairment. The VIP User Group Secretary had requested a copy of the Audit Report and the Committee hoped to be able to study the report before the consultation with Norfolk County Council Scrutiny Committee in June.

Grapevine was moving to new premises above Aldred’s Estate Agents in Regent Street. Because of the move and the forthcoming Easter Bank Holiday there would be no Grapevine this week.

There was discussion about the inconsistent and hazardous placement of A-boards in Market Gates. Some were outside shops, others at the opposite side of the pavement by the railings. The consensus was that they would be best placed by the railings. Ian Hardy offered to investigate the problem, and visit the Manager of the Market Gates complex, pointing out the difficulties encountered by blind and visually-impaired people in the vicinity of Market Gates, and suggesting that all shopkeepers should be advised to place their A-boards against the railings.

Shaun told the Group about difficulties he had experienced with the No.8 bus not stopping on two separate occasions. Danny Beales had been advised by email, to which David had an immediate response. Other members said that had similar experiences. It was agreed that in the first instance David would contact Danny Beales, the Assistant Depot Manager, to ascertain what the protocol was for stopping buses, and whether drivers received training in what to do if they saw people with white canes waiting at bus stops. Ian Hardy said this was an issue which the Group should work hard to resolve, perhaps by pursuing the use of high visibility cards to hold up displaying the number of the bus which users required to stop, as had been successfully introduced elsewhere in the country. It was suggested that a Disability Awareness session at the bus depot would be useful, with samples of the high visibility cards to show to drivers. Sample of these cards would be brought to the next VIP meeting. Derek remarked that even for people with some sight, the numbers on the front of buses were not always easy to read, and that some drivers seemed to be indifferent to disabled people. In showing the disabled person’s bus pass wallet to the driver once on the bus, drivers were alerted to the fact that they had a disabled person on board. Complaints could be addressed either to David who would contact the bus company on the complainant’s behalf, or directly to the bus company, with details of the number and time of the bus and the nature of the complaint. The relevant phone number was in the bus pass wallet. Judy Manning said it was really up to service users to help the bus companies to help blind people by making them aware of the problems.

Fewer problems had been encountered using train services, and those who travelled by train said that if people alerted the disabled assistance service when booking tickets or before travelling, the service worked very well and conductors would ensure that passengers were looked after. Judy Manning and Dennis both spoke highly of service they had received when travelling by rail, both from the assistance service and conductors.

Activities

Tracey (NNAB) reported that there would be no ten pin bowling during Easter week. There was still no sports co-ordinator, but it was hoped that walks would recommence as soon as possible. It was hoped that group members would get involved in the compilation of an archive of local people’s working lives. Interviews could take place at the NNAB.

On 22nd April there was to be a drop-in event at The Star Hotel about local services for older people.

The Book Club would meet on 26th April.

Guest Speaker – PCSO Dave Slater

The Chairman introduced Dave Slater, PCSO and communication officer for the local constabulary, who was keen to foster friendly communications between the public and the police in regard to community issues. Improved service was largely driven by public demand.

Darren’s Mum asked whether anything could be done in the Beach Road Station area, where bottles and glasses were frequently thrown over walls. There was a similar problem at the Wellesley tennis courts.

Tony Scales asked whether the speed cameras on the A143 Beccles Road at Bradwell were working. Ian Hardy testified from personal experience that they were working effectively!

Wendy complained about cyclists riding on pavements in the Hall Quay area, and cycles locked to the scaffolding outside the NNAB offices.

Darren said that he had encountered cyclists travelling at speed in the market place, which was potentially dangerous for blind people, and he had also been subjected to abuse along North Denes Road because of his disability. With regard to cyclists on the market -place there was a local by-law that cycling was prohibited, but since there were no signs to this effect the by-law could not be enforced.
In the case of verbal abuse, the PCSO suggested that Darren should seek the assistance of police on the beat who had a radio link to the control room, a traffic enforcement officer or street warden (though all of these would be difficult for a blind person to identify) or to go into a shop and ask for assistance. David said that he felt quite vulnerable at night time in the area of the Troll Cart. The market place was covered by CCTV, and it was important for individuals to let the police know of any incidents. There was a witness care service for victims if an incident resulted in court proceedings. It was also pointed out that vehicular access to the market place was one-way, and that traffic should follow the arrows.

The PCSO encouraged individuals and the Group to write to the Borough Council about problems which were outside the jurisdiction of the police because of the lack of appropriate signage.

Personal Attack Alarms were available from the Police Station, but in the event of an emergency the best thing was to scream or shout to attract attention.

Pat had repeatedly reported a problem concerning a damaged wall at her property but had no response from the police. The PCSO took details and would investigate

If young people were verbally abusive, police would take their personal details and inform their parents.

Dennis asked whether the Wherry Way complex was patrolled by police because was not aware of a police presence. The PCSO confirmed that the area was patrolled at varied times of the day, and offered to arrange a personal visit.

The relevant phone numbers for the police were 999 to report an emergency or dangerous situation, or 101 for advice. The Police Station office is open from 7am-7pm on weekdays, and from 7am-5pm at weekends. Outside of those hours, there was a yellow emergency telephone to the right of the steps at the front of the police station which is manned 24/7.

Tim asked for directions to the police station on Howard Street North with his guide dog. Directions from the market place – keep to the left hand side past the Gallon Pot, follow the pavement to the left into The Conge, then next left to the front of the police station car park, carry on approximately 100ft to the steps/ramp, and there is an automatic door at the top of the steps. The police station is directly opposite the bus stop outside the flats on Howard Street North.

Darren’s Mum commended the police for their support on an occasion when Darren went missing. In thanking her for her appreciative comments, the PCSO said that missing people came into 3 categories – Low (people who frequently went missing); Medium (those on medication or with a disability) and High risk (in personal danger or a danger to others). The police recognised the importance of keeping families updated, but their prime aim was to be out looking for the missing person.

David said that following an incident of fraud which had involved the Group and him personally as Chairman, he had been very well supported by the police throughout the enquiry and court case.

David thanked PCSO Slater for coming to the meeting, for his interest in the Group and for his helpful and informative answers to Members’ questions.

Bits and Pieces

Members had been invited to bring useful tips to share with the Group, things which they found made their life easier.

Wendy had a long list which a rehab worker had prepared some time ago, which she would copy for anyone who was interested.

Other tips were as follows:-

Refresh refrigerator inside and out with equal parts of white vinegar and water

Put a knob of butter in with potatoes & other vegetables to stop them boiling over

Remove dog mess from shoes using WD40 and a toothbrush. Rinse with cold water

Use brightly coloured kitchen utensils (Judy has a bright yellow carving knife which cost £1.99 and is easy to find in the kitchen)

Use fluorescent Post-it Notes available from Staples

Take advantage of supermarket price promise offers – ask shop assistants to explain what the different pieces of paper are which come with the till receipt

Put orange Bump-ons (available at 8p each from NNAB) on headphones, chargers, USB memory sticks

Shaun had devised a mobile doorbell system to locate various places on his building site and garden

An instant boiling water dispenser which dispenses only the required amount of water

Write messages on black paper with a white marker pen

Steam chicken to ensure it is cooked

Use common sense!!

Judy asked whether anyone had ideas where she could buy a light-coloured doormat so that she could see her black cat when it was sitting on the doorstep.

Any Other Business

It was agreed that a donation in memory of Charlie Johnson should be sent from the Group’s funds via Jary’s undertakers to the James Paget Hospital.

The meeting finished at 4:20pm.

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