VULNERABLE people in South Tyneside will not lose out as the result of nearly £5m worth of savings being made, a council boss has pledged.
Five thousand people get adult social care support because of their age, medical or pychiatric needs in the borough and council chiefs are making almost £4.9m in savings from an overall budget of £40m.
Coun Allan West, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for Adult Social Care, says the savings will not impact on the support service users receive.
He says the savings have been made by scrutinising services and identifying cost-cutting measures.
These include competitive tedering and more cost-effective contracts, particularly in the area of adults with learning difficulties in supported living accommodation and in the provision of hoists and stairlifts.
Further economies have also been made by adopting a ‘clustering service’, where carers are geographically based – cutting down on travel costs.
Better use of technology, such as Telecare and sensors, is also trimming the budget.
Another area where savings have been made is the reduction in day centres, with more people using their own personalised budgets to access non-council services in the community instead. Coun West said: “This is all about reducing spending, not the quality of care.
“At the heart of the review was reserving and enhancing the quality of care as well as emphasis on value for money.
“What we didn’t is say was ‘we’ve got to take X per cent out of the budget right across the service’.
“We started working on this at least a year ago. We have 5,000 service users across a very wide spectrum of needs – from someone who requires a simple alarm call to those that need intensive 24-hour care in their own home or in care homes.
“When we talk to service users and their families, they want to stay at home. There is no doubt about that. The big thrust in what we are doing is to enable people to stay at home longer because that’s what they want and it’s more efficient and cost-effective.”
He explained: “Technology has improved immensely. We now have, for example, technology that tells us if someone is in bed or has fallen on the floor. We have sensors which show us when someone with early dementia has wandered out of their home.
“We are also working with our providers on a clustering service, which means carers spending a lot less time travelling and more time with residents.
“The other issue is contracts. Every time a contract comes up across a service it is subject to a really thorough competitive tendering process.
“Recent examples are a contract to help people with learning difficulties in supported living accommodation. We put that out to competitive tendering and we made real savings.”
Coun West said savings had also been identified in a review of the contracts for the supply of stairlifts and hoists.
He added: In recent years there has been a sea-change in the way adult social care has been provided.
“That has seen the closure of a number of council day centres, a strategy which is reaping financial savings.
“Service users are now encouraged to use their own personalised budgets on activities that best suit their needs. That could be gym membership or art classes.
“Ninety-four per cent of service users have personalised budgets.
“It’s more efficient to have people choosing what they spend their money on” Coun West added.