Councils question care plans ‘drawn on back of fag packet’
09:59 19 March 2014
District councillors to take concerns to County Hall.
NORTH Devon and Torridge district councils have questioned the logic behind Devon County Council’s proposals to cut funding to care and youth services.
Members met on Thursday to discuss a formal response to proposals described by one councillor as being ‘made up on the back of a fag packet’.
At an emotionally-charged special joint overview and scrutiny committee meeting, councillors heard from a number of people likely to be affected by the cuts, which could see day centres closed and residential care homes transferred to the private sector.
Concerns were also discussed about cuts to the youth service and women’s refuge.
Jackie McPhee, whose husband has suffered from dementia for seven years and attends Oakwell day centre in Bickington, said the proposed cuts had caused her a great deal of distress.
She said she had lost weight and had been given sleeping pills since hearing about the plans.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen if this goes through,” she said.
Koren Williams, 17, told councillors about her experiences of the youth service, as regular attendee and now volunteer at ‘Georgies’ youth centre in Barnstaple.
“The youth service saved my life,” she said.
Councillors also heard from Sue Wallis of North Devon Against Domestic Abuse, which runs the women’s refuge centre in Barnstaple, and ex-refuge user Mandy Davies.
Mandy said: “Not only is the refuge the initial safe house that is saving lives, but when you’re going through something traumatic you need someone there who knows about it to say ‘it’s OK to cry and be angry and be able to show these emotions’.”
Clearly moved by the stories of the speakers at the meeting, councillors formulated a number of questions to ask the county council, centring on its ‘wholly inadequate strategy’.
Torridge councillor David Brenton said the proposals ‘could have been made up on the back of a fag packet’.
Cllr Brenton also raised concerns that North Devon is set to see a 92 per cent reduction in its day care bed spaces, while South Devon will only be cut by 67 per cent.
North Devon councillor Joe Tucker labelled the county council’s decision not to send anybody to the meeting ‘disgusting’.
North Devon overview and scrutiny committee chairman Frank Biederman added: “If you’ve not been to any events or places and seen what they do, how can you make decisions?”
A number of services are being put under threat as the county council consults on cuts to services in an attempt to save £110million over the next three years.
But members suggested alternative areas to cut funding, including treasurer’s services and human resources.
The councils concluded to send a delegation of councillors and the representatives of each of the services to meet with cabinet members and air their concerns at County Hall in Exeter.
FULL LIST OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED TO Devon County Council
1. Your website tells us that your consultations said:
“We know that ALL services are important to you but…
You have told us that the services that really matter are…
• Care for the old, young and those most vulnerable in our society (and those that care for them)
• Protect children from abuse and support our mental health services”
Why do these proposals target precisely the services that the people you represent most want to preserve when the DCC budget for 2014/15 includes £47 million for :
• Business Strategy & Support (£17m )
• Human Resources (£5m).
• Treasurer’s Services (£13 m)
• Strategy, Policy and Organisational Change” (over £3.8 m)
• Library and information (£7.2 m)
2. Have the Cabinet Members who will decide whether to close day care and residential care facilities and the youth service visited any of the sites? If they have, which ones and when?
3. At the heart of the proposals for day and residential care is the difference in unit cost between the private sector and DCC. Why is the private sector so much cheaper? Will the decrease in cost bring a decrease in the quality of the service?
4. Have DCC raised the bar by increasing charges and discouraging referrals to day centres and residential care homes to discourage people from using them in order to leave DCC with the argument that usage had dropped so the facility should be closed?
5. Why are DCC turning away people who want to be referred to day centres at the same time as claiming that the centres are underused?
6. How does the withdrawal of facilities match the NEW Devon CCG’s policy of Care Closer to Home? Or does it directly conflict with it and expose as empty the DCC talk of “close working with partners?”
7. Which partner organisations (e.g. District Councils, CCGs, police service etc) did DCC engage with during the consultation?
8. Have you considered the impact of the loss of services to partner organisations such as the police and the National Health Service?
9. As DCC have a duty of care to both older and younger people will the council be setting a quality benchmark for the future provision of affected services and then monitoring to ensure it is reached?
10. What assessments has DCC made of the quality of potential alternative provision in particular for people who suffer with dementia?
11. If the proposals do go ahead how will you ensure that individual needs and quality of care are addressed?
12. Can DCC explain how carers will be assured that the community facilities listed in the day centre consultation can be safely entrusted with the care of their ailing relatives?
13. What care can be provided by the private sector that is equal to that provided by Oakwell?
14. What plans are there to adapt services to address the demographic deficit, with the higher ratio of female to male carers?
15. Evidence suggests that the desperate needs of both carers and patients are not being met. Can you give assurance that a carers assessment will be undertaken and held on record for each occasion that a request for assistance is made?
16. The consultation on day care centres suggests that community facilities such as charity shops and community halls can somehow be used in their place. Can DCC provide examples of how this might happen in practice?
17. What are the alternative provisions referred to in the consultation on day centres?
18. What evidence does DCC have to show that the voluntary sector has the capacity and skills to meet the work the consultations expect of them?
19. What plans are there for the services under consultation (i.e. day centres, residential care, youth service) to change to reflect future population increases and an aging population?
20. How do DCC propose to avoid turning carers into the cared for?
21. The Health Profiles of both North Devon and Torridge show low education attainment levels. How do DCC see the proposals for the youth service affecting this?
22. If some facilities are closed what will happen to the redundant buildings?
23. What lessons on changes similar to those being consulted on for social care day services and residential care has DCC learnt from other local authorities such as Norfolk County Council who are considering reversing their decision?
24. To what extent have DCC assessed and mapped the psychological and social needs against the proposals?