Below is the response I would have given (and which was circulated in the meeting):
'I would like to thank everyone who signed this petition – it is clear that social care is an issue that matters to many people in Reading.
As an administration we believe that the protection of vulnerable adults and children must be our highest priority.
I am honoured to serve as Lead Member for Community Care and I take the responsibility attached to this role very seriously indeed.It is my responsibility to ensure that we are providing the right services to people who need them, and to ensure that the money is there to provide them in future.Funding for social care is a national issue and I am pleased that the Coalition Government has taken the courageous decision to seek a fair, sustainable solution to this issue which affects us all where the previous Labour government failed.
Throughout the challenging budget-making process I have subjected all our community care policies to a series of rigorous tests:
In Reading, like many other areas we face an inescapable reality of increasing growth in demand for our services.
- Will this policy protect the most vulnerable in our community?
- Does this policy promote independence for carers and those with care needs?
- Will this policy deliver an improved quality of service for residents?
- Will this policy be financially sustainable in the longer term?
- Does this policy deliver value for money for taxpayers?
This is not new and it would be the case regardless of the financial position this Council finds itself in.
We face a choice in how we respond to this challenge.
We could have buried out heads in the sand, as Labour did for years and continued to beg for more money from Council tax payers and borrow more money we do not have to pay for services - including services for people who have been assessed as able to pay.
This is not a sustainable and it does not meet the test of ensuring funding is available in the future to provide care to vulnerable people.
Neighbouring Councils have opted to adopt ‘demand management’ which is effectively rationing care. We rejected this because it failed the first test – it places vulnerable people at risk by delaying access to support and help. It also creates huge problems for other local agencies e.g. bed blocking in local hospitals.
We are not proposing to do any of these things.
- we are consulting about eligibility criteria
- we are proposing to increase and enhance support to carers
- we are proposing to expand our preventative and reablement services
The Council put these matters out to public consultation on 6th December and the Transforming Adult Social Care Services consultation is open until 27th February.
Any changes to Adult Social Care can affect very vulnerable people, and we are keen to hear from as many people as possible with their views on these proposals.
There have been in excess of 600 responses to the consultation so far, and approximately 20 meetings held to discuss the proposals.
The majority of responses have come from people who have indicated they have a care and support need themselves or care for somebody who does.
A full report on the consultation will be presented to the Health, Housing and Community Care Scrutiny Panel on 10th March.A decision on what action to take in the light of the consultation feedback will then be taken by Cabinet on 14th March.
We recognise that any change in eligibility for Adult Social Care would increase people’s reliance on other support – from families, communities and voluntary groups. Within the consultation we are therefore asking people for their views on what sorts of support like this – which we have described as ‘preventative services’ - they feel are most important.
There are already a range of excellent services like this in Reading, including the free reablement service offering up to 6 weeks of tailored support to regain maximum independence after an illness or injury.
Consultation feedback will be used to inform our ongoing programme to ensure that the funding Adult Social Care already invests and will continue to invest in carers and community support is meeting local people’s priorities.'