Agenda item

Increasing Access and Choice to Respite and Short Breaks Services for Adults with Disabilities and their Carers

This report gives background information on the current respite offer and reports on the progress being made to increase access and choice for respite services.


The Category Manager introduced the item to the Panel by stressing the importance of respite services for the over 400 service users, of which around 200 were adults with disabilities, and the break these services provided for carers and families. The Panel heard that respite care played a strong role sustaining caring support and the careers for carers as well as the wellbeing of service users.


Members were told that these services were an overwhelmingly positive experience for service users in the borough, with around half of these users on direct payment, and accessing these services through a council menu. The Category Manager explained that despite this, the offer was not as broad or strong as it could be, and that this was being corrected by expanding the overall range of services offered, as well as building toward greater sustainability. The Panel learned that the menu had not previously been published, but that it was now available on both the council website and through MENCAP.


The Category Manager detailed the ways in which work was being done to expand the services offered. Since a procurement exercise in August 2018, 25 providers had been approached by the council, and these had been shortlisted down to 16. Many of these providers could present an immediate offer, and were merely pending due diligence checks; the Category Manager estimated that by the end of November 2018, the council menu would include 20 to 30 additional services. It had also been identified that there needed to be provisions for those who required residential and all day offers, and that a set of proposals for this would be made ready for Council by the end of November 2018. Ideas for new in-house and residential services were also being looked at, with officers currently investigating the level of need and scope of what could be provided.


The Category Manager explained to Members that three main areas for improvement had been identified. The first of these was that the council did not have a great deal of provision for unplanned respite care; the second was that there were not a broad range of culturally specific respite care options, and third was that there was a similarly limited range of respite options for service users with complex needs and challenging behaviours. The Panel were informed that 11 organisations had bid on providing the council with options that would increase these offers, and that these were in the early stages of being evaluated.


Members enquired about the current facilities available for unplanned respite care and learned that the council had one provider, the Eadmund in Coulsdon, with which it had a two bed contract. The Chair asked for further details on what the Eadmund provided under the contract, and the Panel learned that the council paid for two beds throughout the year whether the beds were used or not, but that these were not specific rooms. Members were also informed that around 20 named individuals were allocated a fixed number of days per year by the council, and could book in to use the beds at their convenience.


The Panel enquired as to exactly what a culturally specific offer might entail, and what the options being considered for service users with complex needs might be. Officers expounded that this could simply be activities with others of a similar age or background; the Assistant Director added that, for example, there was a Hindu centre in Streatham that service users could access via direct payments. The Category Manager described possible cases of residents with complex needs as those who may sometimes exhibit challenging behaviours or stubbornness, either because of disability or mental health conditions, and added that the council had struggled to find the right places at the right cost. Members heard that whilst there were suitable options available, more were needed to increase reliability and availability of places, especially in the case of unplanned respite. It was agreed that these cases were more difficult, principally with users who could exhibit aggression, with more staff required in some cases.


Members showed interest in the work being done on a possible in-house service, but wanted to know if this would involve buying and renovating a property, as the figures in the report looked low for providing a bespoke facility. The Category Manager explained that these proposals were still in their early stages, with officers considering the level of need in the borough, and whether the offer would need to be residential. The Panel learned that the figures in the report had been quoted by providers, and that most neighbouring authorities had in-house residential offers. It was also queried whether these proposals would be similar to the now closed Heather Way respite centre, as many of the former residents who had used the centre, and their parents, had been upset by its closure, and had valued the familiarity it had provided. The Category Manager agreed with Members that the centres closure had been lamented by some of the residents who used the centre, many of which they had personally met with. The Panel heard that the need for familiarity had also been identified by officers, and that ways to provide this through relationships with staff were being looked at, rather than through familiarity with a location. It was also hoped that the broader offer would satisfy these residents, providing them with a wider range of options that may better meet their needs. The Chair added that the provisions for complex users at Heather Way had needed improvement, and that these users had needed something better and more suitable to their needs.


Members were interested in how these services would be offered to service users, and whether there would be mixed groups of abilities and disabilities, or whether people would be grouped by descriptors such as dementia. It was explained that there would be a wide and mixed offer provided including evening clubs, visiting carers, art courses and integration with services being offered by MENCAP in Lambeth and Southwark.


Members queried why spending on respite for social workers seemed to have dropped since the last financial year, and learned that these figures only reflected one specific budget, with other budgets not included in the report also contributing to social worker respite; work was being done to acquire specific figures for future reports.


A brief overview was given on the closure of City Breaks, which had happened at short notice in June 2018, after Southwark Council had withdrawn funding to the service. This had affected some Croydon residents, and some former users of Heather Way, who since the closure of City Breaks had only taken small amounts of respite. Members learned that two public meetings with the former service users had taken place, with the assistance of MENCAP. MENCAP had also been instrumental in the provision of an immediate alternative offer, having organised weekends away which had gone well, with many users who had said they would not attend attending. More events had been planned up until April 2019 and senior social workers were trying to identify additional options for the former users. A new immediate offer had been updated and sent to these families for feedback. There was also a working group being set up to consider the new offer and work on the future offer plans to identify any missing elements.


The Assistant Director went into greater detail on the working group, explaining that separate groups had been set up for the users and families to get a clearer idea from both groups. The Chair went on to congratulate officers for the work done after the closure of City Breaks, praising the way they had met the challenge.

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