Thursday, 6 January 2011

Here's a dilemma....


...perhaps not too tricky a dilemma for some but interesting nonetheless.

Bradford Council (pdf) run 11 residential homes for the elderly in which live around 300 people supported by a significant number of council employees. It might be helpful for you to know that the cost per resident, per week in Council-run homes is roughly 50% greater that the cost for the same service in the private and voluntary sector. The Council is consulting on closing some of these homes, keeping some and building new ones as part of a major reconfiguration of the service. This is based on assumptions that a capital strategy to fund this development programme can be constructed. The driver for the strategy isn't "cuts" but a realisation that the Council service does not begin to meet the expected needs of future users.

However, the Council's Adult Social Care Directorate has been asked to consider how up to £27million in savings might be delivered within the overall service (this is a 25% reduction). The aim has - I'm sure you will agree - got to be to maintain current services which include residential care, domiciliary support (what we used to call 'home helps') and a range of day care and other support to vulnerable adults. One option in all this is to adjust the basis on which service and support is provided - rather than providing free care to those elderly people with 'moderate' or greater needs we could limit such provision to those with 'substantial' or higher needs.

Now the direct saving from shutting the homes and buying places in the private sector is £3.6million. This figure is slightly higher than the savings we might realise from changing what are know as 'Fair Access to Care Services' (FACS) criteria (somewhere between £2m and £3m) all this can only be an estimate subject to detailed appriasal and possible legal challenge. The result of changing such criteria is that some people who receive a given service from the Council will no longer receive that service.

It seems to me that in this dilemma lies one of the great lies we hear from the left - and indeed from the unions representing public employees. Closing eleven council old folks' homes will not result in any loss of service - the residents will be housing and cared for to the same standards as before - but will result in the redundancy of the council staff working in those homes. Changing the FACS criteria will not result in any loss of Council employment (most of the services are delivered within the private or voluntary sectors) but will result in a reduction in service to vulnerable adults.

This is a simplified version - the full picture is more complicated - but it indicates the sort of decision being made by local councils across the country. And remember that (while those councils are not wholly innocent) Councillors making the decisions are doing so within the funding available. What I wonder is how many Councillors would opt for closing homes and face the unions' opprobrium and how many would take the savings elsewhere - and actually reduce service to the public - rather than make those care home employees redundant?


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