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Irish charity to look out for Luton’s health

Luton centre - N AN Irish charity will go behind closed doors at welfare organisations across the borough of Luton in order to meet its newly-awarded responsibility for the area’s health care.

After recently winning the Healthwatch Luton contract, the Luton Irish Forum has promised to use the £140,000 grant to improve health services, become the town’s ‘watchdog’ and act as consumer champion for local residents.

LIF’s chief officer Noelette Hanley told us: “There will be strengthened governance, greater community awareness and more enter and view activity leading to improved health and social care services.”

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She added that so-called enter and view visits, a statutory power the Forum now has, will be a key factor in the success of Healthwatch.

As the independent ‘consumer champion’ for the town’s health and social care, LIF is now responsible for scrutinising several local organisations, including the NHS, by investigating the quality of care they provide.

They will report back to Luton’s Clinical Commissioning Group, the body which assumed control of the town’s NHS spending last week, and have the power to call for special reviews of services where appropriate.

The Irish charity is also tasked with gathering public opinion on current health provisions, providing information about local services and signposting people in need of support to relevant organisations – including waves of people likely to be affected by the Government’s radical welfare reforms.

Ms Hanley claimed LIF aims to “enable people to take more control of their own health, treatment and care” in Luton, and will make a special effort to engage with the borough’s Traveller community.

“We also hope that the award of this contract will bring a greater sense of pride and recognition to the Irish community,” she said. “And that Irish residents of Luton will take up the opportunity of having a greater say in determining the level and quality of health and care services available to them.”

Pam Garraway, corporate director for Luton Borough Council’s housing and community living department, said: “We are delighted that a well-known local charity that is clearly passionate about improving the lives of the whole Luton community has been selected to run Healthwatch.

She added: “Luton Irish Forum was selected as they were best placed to ensure that residents’ voices are heard – including some of the most hard to reach groups in our communities.”

The Forum’s £140,000 grant covers the cost a full-time project officer and a part-time administrator. Applications for these posts are currently being taken.

Remaining funds will cover overheads, Healthwatch activities and the training of volunteers, Ms Hanley confirmed.

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Niall O Sullivan
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Niall O’Sullivan is a reporter at The Irish Post. You can follow him on @Niall_IrishPost on Twitter

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