Worcestershire Social Services Cash Could Be Used For Holidays

HOLIDAYS to Barbados and football season tickets could be paid for by the county council as part of a radical shake up of social services.

Adult Care bosses at Worcestershire County Council have come up with the ambitious Choice and Control programme in an attempt to combat spiralling costs due to growing demand for services.

Currently 18,000 people receive social care with 80 new people entering the system every week.

In response, the council proposes to scrap the current system where experts decide and allocate care to those who require it in favour of giving individuals their own budgets and the freedom to spend it how they see fit.

Charles Huntington, programme manager at the council, said they had to think differently if they were going to continue to provide the current level of social care, despite being the third worst funded authority in the country.

“Speaking honestly I’m not sure if I would want the services we currently deliver, now we’re saying if we give you this money could you do better,” he said.

“It’s not as easy as giving people £100 and saying now you’re not our problem because each person is different but I would much rather be spending my Saturday going to the rugby because that’s my passion but someone else might want to go to a needlework class.”

It costs around £2,000 a week for the council to provide respite cover for carers, whereas Mr Huntington suggested a cheaper option would be to send a service user on holiday instead.

“It could be cheaper for a week in Barbados and if we sent them there we could help two more people with the money left over, where would you rather be – a care home in Worcestershire or in the Caribbean?” he said.

“It’s going to be difficult and challenging, I’m not quite sure how we’re going to do it but we’ve got to do it.”

Mr Huntington accepted there was a risk the system could be manipulated, and they had to get the balance right between viability and avoid creating massive bureaucratic costs at County Hall to keep checks on the spending.

The council plans to offer personal budgets for all new service users by April 2009 and hopes to extend the offer to 18,000 existing users by 2011.