Shake-up in care service is ‘not driven by money’

COUNCILLORS have backed plans to revamp community care services in a move which bosses insist are not being driven by the need for savings.

Highland Council, in association with partners NHS Highland and the independent sector, say the shake-up of services – with a greater emphasis on keeping people in their own homes longer – is being driven by the increasing demands of an ageing population and growing numbers of people with complex needs.

Housing and social work committee chairman Margaret Davidson insisted, “Simply carrying on in the same way is not an option.

“We will have more older people. We will also have growing numbers with disability and other needs.

We need to do things differently. We need to change the nature of services, so that there is a broader range of support, that we are able to respond more quickly to provide the right help at the right time. We also need more services that support people to do things for themselves, and to continue to live in their own homes for longer, rather than to become dependent on continuing care.”

She said it was not about making cash savings, but about “spending the budget more wisely”, targeting support on where it made the most difference for people, and reducing bureaucracy.

The local authority is transforming dedicated community care activities, including the ongoing development of care at home services, and carrying out a review of community-based supports and day care across the authority.

It’s also looking at proposals to speed up assessment and decision making, to ensure that services can be accessed more quickly across both the Council and NHS Highland.

The committee unanimously backed what Cllr Davidson describes as the pressing need to modernise services.

She added, “We know that people want to live at home for as long as possible. We know that families and communities appreciate support, but they don’t always want the caring agencies to take over. We need to build local services that better enable families and communities to perform these roles, and that also enable service users to develop or maintain their social and personal skills. We also need services that are more intensive, be they community based, or linked to day care and residential care, that provide specialist help for people with more complex needs.”

Harriet Dempster, director of social work, said, “We need to plan for services that meet the demands we will face in the future years. That means shifting the balance of care to support earlier and community-based support, assisting people to regain and maximise their health and independence, and making sure that people who use services experience a seamless and joined-up process for meeting their personal, physical or mental health needs.

“It also means taking away all needless bureaucracy that delays service delivery. We can achieve that through better and quicker assessments, and through more efficient management systems.”

The detail of services will be set out in the Joint Community Care Plan with NHS Highland.

A process of consultation about that Plan has now begun “where we will talk with services users and their families, and with our partner agencies, about our intentions for the future”.

The housing and social work committee agreed the change programme and endorsed the streamlining of management in care at home, the investment in more front line services, and the creation of a shared ‘hub’ with NHS Highland, which it is claimed will result in better call handling for telecare and emergency services.

It also included a review of day care, to better support local social care activities, as well as more specialist care for people with complex needs.