Monday, 14 March 2011

Towards Sustainable Adult Community Care Services in Reading

I was pleased that yesterday evening the proposals I have been leading in recent months to put social care in Reading on a more sustainable footing were agreed by Cabinet and won support in principle from Labour councillors.

I have been working day and night to develop these proposals and taking these decisions is never easy. I believe they form part of a planned transition from an outdated, unsustainable way of doing things towards a better future for services to our most vulnerable residents.

I pointed out to Cllr Orton and other public detractors who have criticsed me as heartless and uncaring that I came into politics not for any love of public finances but because I care deeply about people.

I responded to two petitions at the meeting - one from the Green Party (which I previously published here) and one from Freda Potten. I went to meet Freda in the morning with officers and I have promised to keep talking to her to ensure that concerns she has around Albert Road Day Centre are addressed in the future.

I also responded to questions from Reading Mencap about how we will be supporting carers.

Below are snippets from the presentation I gave:

Coalition Priorities
  • Work to develop appropriate policies and high quality funded services to address the increasing service needs of the ageing population in Reading
  • Retain the current eligibility criteria for social care for the rest of the financial year
Key Questions

In developing community care policies in Reading I have continually challenged officers around the following questions:
  • Will this policy protect the most vulnerable in our community?
  • Will this policy be financially sustainable in the longer term?
  • Does this policy deliver value for money taxpayers?
I am satisfied that the direction of travel of our policies addresses these key questions.

One size does not and must not fit all
  • Transforming community care services is about building services that fit local people's needs
  • Subsidising services is both costly and unfair
  • We must extend the user of personal budgets to increase choice and control for carers and service users
  • We are maintaining and extending community and voluntary support
  • We are improving and extending support carers as well as service users
We have listened
  • We had a tremendous response to our community care consultation
  • I would like to thank each and every person who responded with their views
  • Feedback showed that services for vulnerable adults in Reading are highly valued
  • There is a good understanding amongst residents of a need to make changes to our policies to make them more sustainable
  • Specific problems were raised in relation to charges
  • Respondents identified that more help and support is needed for carers
  • The report and recommendation to Cabinet reflects this
Who will be affected by changes to community care policies?
  • Around 40% of service users will not have to pay anything under the new system (if they are assessed as being unable to afford to pay)
  • This will include a proportion of people who are currently paying for services
  • More than three quarters of people currently classed as with moderate care needs are likely to move into substantial or critical need after assessment so will continue to receive support
  • We estimate that less than one third of service users who are assessed as moderate will be signpost to other services in the community
How will the new system work?
  • We have produced a full equality impact aassessment of these proposals and I am satisfied that all potential risks can be mitigated
  • Individual assessments for care and finances will be carried out for everyone currently assessed as moderate
  • Everyone in the moderate band will receive access to ou free reablement service. 60 % of people who use this successful service have required no further services from the Council
  • Ther will be free signposting advice about voluntary and community sector activity they can access
  • All cases where a possible safeguarding issue are detected will be treated as critical
  • New charges for services will be phased in over a period of 6 months to help people adjust
A more sustainable service
  • More people with more complex needs are approaching the Council for help
  • Our plans save nearly £1.5 million pounds over 3 years
  • Lower demand means a more sustainable future
  • If we did not tackle growth pressures we would have to cut services elsewhere
  • This helps us to protect valued services provided by the Council
The Council's overall budget position
  • We need to make savings next year of over £18 million pounds
  • We have maintained our commitment to discretionary spend e.g. carers, libraries, parks and leisure services
  • We have increased our budget for voluntary and community groups
  • We are still spending over £40 million pounds next year on adult social care services
In responding to my presentation, rather than attacking my vision or the broad principles I set out Reading Labour councillors chose to criticis our implementation plan. This was not tabled as a detailed plan will be developed by officers in consultation with me as lead councillor. I am not a trained social worker so I will be taking professional advice from my officers about the safest way to implement these changes. It is obviously important that we get the implementation of these policies right and I will be keeping a close eye on things to ensure we do.

I stressed several times that we could not make definitive plans for services without knowing what the service needs of all our residents are. But we would continue to work to ensure that during the transition they and their carers get the support they need.

Given Labour ran the Council in Reading for 23 years I found it a bit strange that they did not attempt to defend the way they funded services in the past. In fact they didn't put forward any counter arguments at all.

This is sad as it highlights the fact that in the main their criticisms have been politically motivated rather than motivated by any real desire to improve services.

I pointed out that given that Labour failed to put forward any kind of credible alternative budget last month (and only identified £500k of savings in next years' Budget) the Council will only be discussing one set of proposals to transform social care in Reading when it comes to approve these plans at full Council on 29 March.

Cllr David Stevens asked me how our planned charges for services compared with neighbouring authorities and the private sector. I pointed out that in both Wokingham and West Berkshire charges were almost double and that in one private sector day service in Reading the day rate was £200 per day - so I am confident our charges of £43 are not excessive.

I am confident that the plan I put forward and that was agreed yesterday by Cabinet represents the safest, fairest and most sustainable future for adult care services in Reading. I am personally responsible for adult safeguarding so I will be working overtime to ensure that the transition is carried out as safely and humanely as possible.

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