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Week 4 of Council Budget blog focuses on caring services

Issued: 3 Jun 2010

The Highland Council's budget blog today (3 June) asks the public if the Council can provide care services differently.

The new posting by Budget Leader Councillor David Alston asks:-

* Should we continue to run care homes ourselves?
* Can we change how we provide care-at-home?
* Can we change how we provide day care for older people?

Regarding care homes, Councillor Alston says that 83% of care home places are currently provided, at lower cost, by the private and voluntary sector. The remaining 17% are in 18 Council-run care homes for older people. A place in a Council-run home costs around £819 a week compared to between £464 and £540 for private and voluntary sector. Care homes are independently inspected against the same standards whether in the public, private or voluntary sectors and inspection reports show similar quality in Highland.

He asks: "Should we concentrate our effort, and our Council provision, in remote and rural areas where private/voluntary providers are unlikely to run care homes? And in the main areas of population, should we buy services from other providers in the private/voluntary sector, where they are provided at lower cost?"

This, he says, will save up to £2.9 million.

Regarding care-at-home services, the Council provides a service to nearly 2,000 older people. For around 1,800 people this is provided by Council staff and for around 200 people the Council pays other organisations to provide this service.

Councillor Alston said: "If we paid other organisations in the private and voluntary sectors to provide this service to everyone, we could save £1 million. The care provided is independently inspected against the same standards no matter who provides it. Do people using these services mind whether the Council or another organisation provides the service? Should we use this approach too for the small number of people with learning disabilities living in Council-supported housing in Inverness? Elsewhere in Highland we pay other organisations to provide this service more cost effectively. This could save us £40,000."

The Council has 23 registered day care services for older people, providing a mixture of social contact, stimulation and care for up to 570 older people. Most of these are provided within care homes, but the Council has three stand alone older people's day care centres. The Council also supports almost 30 day services in the private and voluntary sectors which offer another 250 places.

Councillor Alston said: "Many of these services are less than three quarters full and we know that many older people are reluctant to use services that focus on their age or incapacity. There may be opportunities to meet people's needs differently in other local settings (e.g. community and leisure centres and village halls) or to bring services together to make more efficient use of some facilities. This could encourage greater includion of older people in community life and lead to more people benefiting from the services but at lower cost. Further potential savings to 2013 are £150,000."

The blog will continue to look at different aspects of the Council's spending every week until the blog closes at the end of this month. At the end of week three, 3,500 people had viewed blog pages; 257 people had signed up to take part in the discussion and 186 people had posted comments.

The Council is consulting over options that have been proposed by Services to identify budget savings of £36 million over the next three years. These options are set out in two budget documents which can be accessed via the home page of our web site: www.highland.gov.uk

Other meetings scheduled are:

* 9 June: East Sutherland and Edderton Ward Forum - Brora
* 14 June: Skye Ward Forum - Portree
* 16 June: Dingwall and Seaforth Ward Forum - Dingwall
* 17 June: Cromarty Firth Ward Forum - Ardross
* 18 June: Highland Youth Voice - Sleat, Skye
* 21 June: Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh Ward Forum - Lochcarron
* 22 June: Inverness City Ward Forum - Town House, Inverness
* 23 June: Badenoch and Strathspey Ward Forum - Boat of Garten
* 30 June: Nairn Ward Forum - Rosebank Primary, Nairn

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme