Thursday, 20 August 2009

Supporting People Programme

Having just posted on the intended 'National Care Service', the subject of a Green Paper, it would seem that another 'idea' of this 'caring' government is well under way to implementation.

Most hostels, refuges and sheltered accommodation have had a resident Warden - or a Warden that attends 9am-5pm weekdays. These Wardens - or Scheme Managers, as they are sometimes called - provide a 'service' to residents who, very often, are frail, suffer from slight immobility, but who are able to maintain a degree of independence. It is worth noting that in most cases, dependent on each resident's financial position, approximately 80 per cent of the Scheme Manager's salary is paid by Supporting People, the remainder being a form of 'service charge'.

Until April, £1.6billion of government grants to local councils was ring-fenced for 'supporting people' projects. That 'ring fence' has now been removed, thus allowing local councils to spend it on whatever they consider their priorities. What local councils are now proposing is to remove the Scheme Managers from sheltered accommodation and introduce 'floating support' whereby a Scheme Manager will visit daily, or weekly, for an hour - sometimes less.

One particular sheltered accommodation scheme in Oxfordshire, which I know well, learnt via another means about this 'proposal' and when questioned a representative of the local authority stated that they had consulted widely and that their proposal to reduce Scheme Manager' hours of attendance had been welcomed. It transpired that yes, they had 'consulted' with other NGOs, but that the one group that had not been consulted were the residents!

On 9th August the Observer contained an article - link unavailable - written by Rajeev Syal and Graham Mole detailing a couple of cases. In one instance, Joan Garbet, 72, from Eastbourne, a retired nurse, had her Scheme Manager removed in January and said: "When I signed my contract in 2001, it said that a resident warden would be provided." Refuting the removal of the warden, her solicitor said: "I would argue that getting rid of wardens could breach tenant's 'legitimate expectation' when they moved in, that the service would continue to be provided."

This same article also related the instance of Anona Thorpe who died from hypothermia after falling in her sitting room in her residential home. Several days passed before she was spotted unconcious behind the sofa by her neighbours. The Warden has been removed months earlier following a 'cost-cutting' shake-up of housing support that saw visits by the warden cut from daily to monthly.

Having just been enrolled on the Oxfordshire County Council Supporting Peoples Tendering Process Panel, which will be monitoring the proposed changes, I shall be blogging on this subject too and in greater detail.

At first sight it would appear incredible that a 'duty of care', one that it is imagined must exist, can be changed at the whim of a bureaucrats pen! It is also worth making the point that 'cuts' being implemented, as in Wardens/Scheme Managers, would not be necessary if this country was not paying £60million a day to the European Union! Before we worry about those less fortunate on the continent, perhaps we should firstly make sure our own dependents are cared for!

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