The truth about the Consultation on Adult Social Care

I am aware of the misinformation that is going around concerning the Consultation on Adult Social Care here in Medway. I thought that it would be useful if I took the liberty of sharing with you my colleague Cllr David Brake’s speech to Medway Cabinet last week.
I do hope that this will help dispel the mistruths going around at the moment.

Medway Council’s Vision for Commissioning and Providing Adult Social Care Services in Medway – Presentation to Medway Council Cabinet on Tuesday 29 November 2011 by Cllr. David Brake, Portfolio Holder

Leader – I am today seeking Cabinet permission to consult on decommissioning the Balfour Day Centre and outsourcing Robert Bean Lodge, Platters Farm Lodge and Nelson Court. I think it important to stress from the outset that the plans to outsource the three residential care services is on the basis that they continue as going concerns – that they do not close but continue in the independent sector, providing local services for local people.

The Balfour Day Centre has had falling numbers of attendance for a number of years. This is due to Personalisation, whereby Adult Social Care is required to offer clients a Personal Budget in lieu of services and increasingly more and more people are opting for Personal Budgets, taking choice and control over their care and support.

We have reached a tipping-point with now on average only 34 people attending the Balfour Day Centre each day, Monday to Friday. The cost of running the service is no longer sustainable and with capacity across the other day services offering plenty of choice we need to consider the future of this Day Centre. That consideration needs to be informed by discussion with those who use the service, their carers and the staff.

The staff at the Balfour Day Centre have offered excellent care and I thank them for their continued professionalism and commitment. We do hope to retain their skills and experience within our services. The driver for change is Personalisation and when people choose to go elsewhere for their care and support it is not a criticism of the Balfour Day Centre. It is simply that people want fulfilled lives and the opportunity to pursue their personal interests at times that suit them and their families, including evenings and weekends.

In direct response to requests from clients, Medway Council has invested in specialist equipment in our leisure services, provided changing place (toilet) facilities in the community and has developed the local care sector to one that can meet individual needs in a flexible and personalised way.

I recognise that some clients at the Balfour Day Centre will wish to receive Personal Budgets and some will wish to attend Day Centres. There is capacity across Medway to meet all needs. The range of day opportunities available is as wide as the range of interests with at least 18 different providers across Medway alone.

I recognise that a key purpose of day care is respite for carers and the proposal to consult on decommissioning the Balfour Day Centre will need to ensure that the needs of carers can be met and that we fulfil our duty to you and your loved ones. I believe we can achieve this if we sit down together, talk through the options and give you time and space to consider the alternatives.

In the last year we saw the most dramatic drop in the number of people attending day centres with more than a third of people who attended day centres this time last year now opting for Personal Budgets.

There is never a good time to conduct a consultation such as this but it is important that the council reacts to changes to adult social care so that we can offer the best care available which represents value for money.

Medway Council is helping many people to access day opportunities and to have enjoyable and fulfilling lives. The proposal to consult on decommissioning the Balfour Day Centre is of course difficult for those who use the service and I understand that. Our duty is to all adults with a physical disability and to ensure that we meet your collective needs. This proposal simply reflects the choices you are making and looks to the future to ensure we sustain the range of services in demand.

We will not leave anyone without care and support and we will not leave any carer without the respite that they need.

Robert Bean Lodge, Platters Farm Lodge and Nelson Court are all excellent residential care services. I would like to commend the care home managers and staff for the high quality and compassionate care that they give. I know how much the residents and their relatives value this.

As I said at the beginning, the proposal to consult on outsourcing these services to the independent sector is not a proposal to close the care homes or their associated day centres. It is a proposal to secure your future in a sustainable way.

If these proposals are taken forward:

Will any resident need to move home? No.

Will staff lose their jobs? No

Will the managers change? No

So what will change? The sign outside.

There are 96 care homes in Medway including the three remaining care homes for older people run by the council. Any suggestion that outsourcing you to the independent sector will put residents at risk of abuse or staff at risk of losing their jobs is simply not true and it is sad that scare-mongering is already causing unnecessary worry and stress to residents, their families and staff.

Is there widespread abuse in our 96 care homes? No. Is the quality of care very good? Yes. Don’t just take my word for it. The Care Quality Commission have in recent years tracked year on year improvements in the quality of care commissioned in Medway. In addition to that we have asked residents in the largest survey of Adult Social Care recipients ever undertaken in Medway and they tell us that they are very satisfied with the care and support available across Medway.

Some people have made reference to Southern Cross in response to our proposal to consult on the future of these three services and suggested that outsourcing these care homes will put them at risk. Well, in Medway we had two Southern Cross care homes and what has happened to them? Nothing. Southern Cross did have a financial issue but we worked with them and the care homes continue to this day – no one had to move home and no staff lost their jobs. The demand for residential care is strong and good services have a bright future.

Robert Bean Lodge, Platters Farm Lodge and Nelson Court are all good services and their future is bright if they are freed to take any local residents, not just council funded residents.

There are 1,240 residential and nursing care beds available in Medway and we need to ensure fair funding across the sector. We cannot do that if we are spending so much money on these three services alone. The challenge with these services is the cost of provision – we spend 21% of our residential budget on these three services, providing 107 beds, when they provide only 3% of the residential beds in Medway.

Putting these three services in the independent sector will widen the user group, ensure that they are fully utilised and reduce overheads to make them sustainable care homes for the future.

The council will continue to commission beds in each of these residential care services and they will continue to offer the range of services that they do now – this is simply about securing their future, which is important to all of us. A provider taking on these services will need to meet our high standards for care quality and assure us that they are sustainable organisations that do not put the future of these services at risk. In return they would be taking on excellent care homes with arguably the best-trained staff and managers in Medway.

I urge those engaged in the debate that will no doubt follow to act responsibly – not to cause unnecessary stress, worry and fear for residents, relatives and staff by exaggerating the proposal into something it is not.

We all want to see Robert Bean Lodge, Platters Farm and Nelson Court continue for many years to come and ensuring that the services are sustainable is the responsible way to ensure that happens.

We have a good track record in dealing with care home facilities and I refer of course to Shaws Wood and Churchlands. We work with individuals and families. Regrettably the owner of Genette Lodge himself a victim of a scam, was forced to close. Medway Council Adult Social Care worked with service users and families as well as staff to ensure a good outcome and to rehouse all concerned.

If permission is granted to go out to consultation, we will consult for 60 days and we will ensure that the consultation reaches those who would be affected by the proposals and gives time and space for informed debate, questions and answers. The proposal will be debated at the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee. We will report the outcome of the consultation to Cabinet in February so that a well informed decision can be made with due regard given to an up-dated impact assessment.

I hope colleagues will support the proposal to consult on the future of these services. Thank you.

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