Today’s guest blog is written by Cllr Helen Holland, my cabinet lead for Adult Social Care.
It’s good to have the opportunity to tell you about the work we are forging ahead with through our “Better Lives” transformation programme, improving the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.
Like most other Local Authorities, budgets are very challenging, and while the additional money the Chancellor announced on Monday 29th October for Adult Social Care is welcome, at £650m across the English councils, it is a drop in the ocean of the £3bn that it has been estimated is needed.
Although the transformation we are leading is in the context of reducing budgets, we are also doing it because it is the right thing to do. Our ambition is that our residents get the right help at the right time, to promote independence, and to prevent, reduce or delay the need for long-term support.
I have presented reports to Cabinet over the last few months which really show how we are working with partner organisations to change the balance of what we buy to achieve better outcomes for residents who need help to live their lives. The first of those reports introduced a new “Bristol Rate” for residential and nursing homes, recognising that we had previously made far too much use of these homes, and paid too much for the places. This lower rate puts us into line far more with other authorities, and is already beginning to pay off as we place fewer people into those homes.
However, we can only do that if we have the right amount of Home Care in our communities. To increase the availability of Home Care, another report increased the hourly rate paid to Home Care providers, with the expectation that they pass some of that increase on to their workers, so that none are paid less than the Living Wage. The impact of this decision has been to improve the stability of those organisations, reducing the turn-over in their workforces. I know from talking to Home Care workers that the pay rises they received have been very welcome – and show that their work is really valued. A further increase is scheduled for next year.
The third report I want to highlight here is about our ambitious programme to build far more extra care housing. We know that there are many older and vulnerable people living in unsuitable accommodation, across all tenures. We need to work harder to build more so that there are options for moving into attractive and purpose-built housing in every community. Extra care housing means that people can have their care needs met while retaining their independence, and evidence shows that older people who live in such schemes have few hospital admissions and feel less lonely and isolated. You may have seen the recent television programmes “Old People’s Homes for Four Year Olds”, the first series was filmed here in Bristol. Looking at opportunities to deliver extra care housing with scope for intergenerational activity is definitely on my radar.
This gives just three elements of Better Lives, and much more is happening, so do get in touch with me if you want to hear more. It is a very challenging – but exciting – time to be responsible for Adult Social Care.