Health gurus back Westminster shared adult social care

WESTMINSTER Council’s shift towards sharing adult social care services with two neighbouring boroughs has been endorsed in a major new independent report.

The council plans to form one adult social care unit with Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham Councils as part of a drive to save more than �34million by 2015.

The report, A Vision For The Future Health And Social Wellbeing Of A City, is by leading healthcare experts.

It states: “Local authorities, in London especially, are not discrete areas with clearly demarcated boundaries.

“Communities in London, especially, pay no heed to arbitrary borders drawn on a map.

“Individuals and their families often see their neighbourhoods and regularly used local transport networks as more important geographical markers that provide a greater sense of self than the organisation to which they pay council tax.

“Tri-borough collaboration reflects these principles while preserving localist values and local democracy.”

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But the report also warns of the “potential pitfalls” of shared services, including “accountability” and “governance”.

The report team, led by Age Concern England former director general Baroness Sally Greengross, was commissioned by Westminster Council last September to look at the future of local authority care.

It contains 40 recommendations, including people volunteering in exchange for “care credits”, forming a local authority trading company to deliver adult services and making services more community-led.

The care credits insurance scheme would see people in their 40s and 50s help their community in order to generate credits which could then be “cashed in” for future local authority care.

Participants could volunteer in a number of ways, including caring for older residents at a day centre or organising community activities.

Baroness Greengross said: “Given the current economic climate, we saw a genuine opportunity for the council to redesign and reconfigure services so they are fit for the 21st century.

“Using ‘time credits’ is just one of a wide range of recommendations that could be considered.

“We have put forward a number recommendations that could be implemented at councils across the country to radically overhaul adult social services and help drive out inefficiency.

“While we acknowledge that our recommendations do not provide all the solutions, I hope they offer a blueprint for a new approach to council care for elderly and vulnerable people.”

Commenting on the council’s recent decision to remove social care from adults with “moderate” needs, the report warns that “Westminster must maintain a reasonable investment in preventative services to halt the escalation from ‘moderate’ needs to “substantial’”.

Cllr Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for society, families and adult services, said: “It’s clear that given the multiple pressures we are facing, we cannot continue to do all we have done in the past.

“We need to consider how we can we continue to provide first- class adult services in a changing world.”

The council has faced a 10 per cent increase in demand for adult social care over the past two years and it is estimated that it will see a further 20 per cent increase in the next 10 years from an ageing population.