Councillors have approved proposals to change the way Wolverhampton City Council provides some of its social care and support services.

Members of the council's Cabinet this week approved high level plans to find an external partner or partners to run certain in-house care and support services on its behalf.

In total there are 25 services in scope which are currently delivered internally by the council. They cover a wide range of services including older people, children and young people, mental health and disability.

The plans have been put forward at a time when the council is facing an unprecedented financial challenge - and increasing demands for social care services.

Councillor Steve Evans, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: "We are experiencing rising demand for social care services, particularly those for older adults as a result of our ageing population, at a time when the council is also facing an unprecedented financial challenge due to Government cutbacks.

"If Whitehall goes ahead with its intended spending plans the money provided to Wolverhampton by Government will have reduced by more than half over 4 years.

"Therefore, like many other local authorities, we are having to look at everything we do to ensure we offer the best quality services to our customers while also providing good value for money to taxpayers.

"Engaging with one or more external partners to provide our services has been identified as the option which would have the least effect on service users and minimise the impact on employees, whilst enabling us to make the savings we require."

Councillor Val Gibson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, added: "It is clear that, despite our very best efforts, we cannot make the required savings of £123 million - on top of the £100 million we have saved over the last 5 years - simply by further efficiencies and good housekeeping alone.

"We need to consider making fundamental changes to the way we deliver our services if we are to meet both increasing demand and the financial challenge we face.

"We are determined that any changes we make to our in-house services do not compromise our service users and that they continue to receive the highest quality of care possible. Any successful contracted provider will need to be able to demonstrate that they are able to continue to provide the quality of service that is currently experienced by service users."

The council has looked at a wide variety of options for the services included in the proposals, and spoken with many other local authorities which have developed alternative delivery models for services formerly provided in-house.

A report was presented to Cabinet on Tuesday (4 March, 2014) and Members agreed to contracting out as the preferred way of delivering in-house services in future. Officers will now commence the procurement process as well as exploring the possibility of jointly procuring some services with health partners.

Councillor Evans said: "We'd like to reassure our customers that this proposal is not about wielding the axe, it is primarily about providing social care services in a more cost effective way.

"We don't want to see the level and quality of service diminished, and so service continuity and quality standards will be a pre requisite of any discussions we have with prospective providers.

"We also remain very receptive to suggestions for alternative models that would deliver the right outcomes, both for our service users and the council."

The services being considered as part of this review are:

  • Older People's Services: Nelson Mandela House and Merry Hill House residential care homes, Bradley and Woden resource centres and the social care element of Blakenhall resource centre, HARP Reablement, the social care element of the community intermediate care teams, Telecare, Carelink, Neighbourhood Support Service, Ekta
  • Children's Services: Two council run children's homes
  • Learning disability and younger adult services: Learning disability day services, learning disability employment services, A41 reablement, Duke Street learning disability residential services, Ernest Bold and Swan Bank respite services and the Outreach and Supported living services
  • Mental Health Services: Community Inclusion Team, Recovery House

Councillor Gibson added: "We will be working closely with service users, their family carers and staff through this process and will keep them updated about developments."

  • released: Friday 7 March, 2014