Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee (Wirral Council) 9th July 2013

A report on the Families and Wellbeing Committee held in Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall on the 9th July 2013

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Video footage of the first meeting of Wirral Council’s Families and Wellbeing Committee (that replaces both the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee and its Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee) can be watched above with a playlist of all parts here. If you’d like to be notified each time I upload a video, simply subscribe to my Youtube channel.

The agenda and reports for the meeting are as usual on Wirral Council’s website. In a meeting that lasted over two hours what was actually decided? Well they agreed the minutes of the previous two meetings of the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the previous meeting of the Children and Young Peoples Committee.

They noted a report and presentation on their terms of reference (which had previously been agreed at the last Extraordinary Council meeting back in April). They noted (and received a report on) the policy and performance procedure rules (which had already been agreed with minor amendments by the Coordinating Committee a week ago). All this (which along with a few interests being declared at the start of the meeting) took a staggeringly long thirteen minutes. These last two reports were something the Committee have no say over as it falls outside their terms of reference.

Then they went onto discuss the role of co-optees. There are ten co-optees on this Committee, some required by law, others were transferred over from the Families and Wellbeing Committee’s predecessor committees. Curiously none of the ten co-optees had been invited along to the meeting where their very existence was debated. I’ll point out here that who the co-optees are is decided by Council, not the Families and Wellbeing Committee. After much umming and ahhing as well as correction by Fiona Johnstone of the mistaken belief by one councillor (who shall remain nameless) that the Chief Executive of Arrowe Park Hospital and a doctor from the Clinical Commissioning Group had been co-optees of the former Health and Wellbeing Committee, Cllrs Moira McLaughlin, Denise Roberts, Mike Hornby and Pat Williams decided to meet in a task and finish group to mull over the co-optees’ future.

So after twenty minutes of noting reports and discussing things that fell outside their remit, did they finally at agenda item seven get to something within their committee’s remit and that it was worthwhile having fifteen councillors (plus two Cabinet Members) and about a dozen senior officers present for? Item seven was another Powerpoint presentation on the “Directorate Plan” given by Claire Fish, Julia Hassall and Chris Begya (in place of Graham Hodkinson).

The slides went on and on, the jargon and management phrases flowing seamlessly from senior officer’s lips. “We’re operating in a challenging fiscal environment” was said instead of the simpler “We’re making cuts”, “synergies” was used instead of cuts, “commissioning approach” instead of privatisation. Julia Hassall told councillors that that they had been “imagining where they’ll be in 2016” and invited them into her “vision of the future”. She then got onto slides about pyramids. You may think Ancient Egypt is way, way outside the remit of the Committee, but these weren’t Powerpoint slides about crumbling relics, these were “pyramids of need”.

Words cannot express how mind-numbingly dull it was watching the admittedly enthusiastic Julia Hassall explaining which children went where on each level of her “pyramids of need”. However it was, yes you’ve guessed it, more code for cuts as confirmed at the end by her saying that they had a balanced budget and were well on track to finding £11.4 million of cuts.

Cllr Williams complained that it was difficult to take in the information from the Powerpoint slides and could they have copies? Cllr McLaughlin also asked this (as well as a question about educational outcomes). Whilst Cllr McLaughlin was asking Julia Hassall a long question, Julia Hassall stood there nodding, seemingly doing a good impression of the Churchill insurance dog but without the “Oh yes”. When she wasn’t nodding, she had her head tilted to one side as if she was a teacher being asked a question by a pupil who hadn’t been paying attention. In a long answer with many, many, many hand gestures that really should’ve had their own accompanying music, Julia Hassall mentioned the Corporate Parenting Group and agreed in response to a question of Cllr McLaughlin that she would circulate the minutes of its last meeting to councillors (which was the subject of a recent FOI request of mine that was refused by Wirral Council on the basis it would take too long). Various other councillors asked questions or made comments, then Chris Begya of the Department of Adult Social Services gave her presentation.

This again was jargon heavy, “safeguarding peer challenge”, “Care Quality Commission” and “national sector led improvement organisation” peppered her talk which again was basically along the theme of the previous one, a hundred and one way to mention cuts without actually using the word. Bad budgets were mentioned, so were savings, so was a “more transparent leadership” and on that final point the Director of Adult Social Services was so transparent he wasn’t even there! As before councillors made comments and asked questions finishing with the Chair thanking Claire Fish, Julia Hassall and Chris Begya.

Claire Fish briefly (yes senior officers can actually be brief) talked about item eight, the Families and Wellbeing dashboard, but spent a lot longer fielding questions from councillors on it. A large print version of item nine (public health dashboard) was circulated to councillors, with a long summary from Fiona Johnstone, which again attracted questions from councillors (along with some very long answers).

Moving to item ten, the end was almost in sight! Cllr Povall gave a brief summary as to where the Task and Finish Group on the Francis Report had got to, there was a long discussion on the work program (eventually they agreed that the Chair and spokespersons would meet up to decide it), there were no questions on item twelve and finally after just over two hours in the sweltering heat of Committee Room 1 the meeting finished.

Leasowe, Saughall Massie and Moreton Area Forum 27th February 2013 Part 5 | Moreton Day Centre

Leasowe, Saughall Massie and Moreton Area Forum 27th February 2013 Part 5 | Moreton Day Centre

Continued from Part 4.

Graham Hodkinson responded by saying that he didn’t agree and that all the services had enough capacity to downsize and that it was staffing where the savings were.

A member of the public pointed out that Pensby Wood Day Centre had less spare capacity than that would be generated from a closure of a large centre and that a large day centre was more efficient.

Graham Hodkinson said that the most efficient would be one really big day service, but the result of the consultation in 2012 was people wanted smaller services so they were trying to balance the two.

A member of the public asked for financial figures on the cost of running Dale Farm, Royden Park and Best Bites and asked if they were running efficiently or were over budget? They pointed out that users weren’t always being charged and that the closure of a day centre hadn’t been mentioned at the start of the consultation. The same member of the public said they contested the comparison figures dating back to 2004 as in 2004 it wasn’t the same type of service, they also said officers hadn’t replied as to whether the figures were correct or not. The member of the public felt they wouldn’t listen to the view of wanting alternative savings rather than by closing a centre.

Graham Hodkinson said there would be a three-month consultation, in which they would listen to ideas. If it could be shown that alternative savings could be delivered then they had a duty to listen to that. He was happy for Chris Begya and her team to support alternative approaches if it delivered efficiency, however he hadn’t had many direct correspondences (although some had come via councillors). He was keen to ensure information was put out from the centre. Chris Begya said she had written to a couple of people about alternative ideas and was happy to talk and listen.

The member of the public said they had written to Chris and Cllr Phil Davies and asked for a meeting with Cllr Phil Davies and Graham Burgess, but hadn’t written to Graham Hodkinson. A meeting had happened with Chris Begya and a response had been received back, however they challenged everything Graham Hodkinson said. The threat of taking away the day centre was causing anxiety and how could they look forward to the future when next year there could be further cuts?

Graham Hodkinson said they were willing to listen and after the Council decision they had a duty to listen, he said they were happy to offer accountancy support if carers were keen to set out their ideas.

A member of the public said the day centre didn’t require closing and that people should be dealt with as human beings. They said the transport system was ridiculous and that closing a centre would condemn people onto buses to go to different centres which would cause stress for the parents. He expressed the opinion that any parents who had a person with learning disabilities was more expert than he was and that they should be treated as human beings.

Graham Hodkinson said that everybody was entitled to an individual needs assessment, but it was unfortunate that they had to set a legal budget. He said they had done mapping of where people lived compared to which centre they went to and there was no correlation, he agreed the transport was “not quite right” and that they could improve the transport arrangements.

A member of the public said that the depth of feeling had boosted the attendance figures and said they were baffled by some figures that stated that for ninety-one people at Moreton Day Centre there may not be sufficient capacity in the short-term to relocate them and that the projected savings were based on the assumption that all the staff would leave.

Graham Hodkinson said he had no idea what they were referring to. The member of the public said it was part of the staff consultation in December 2012. Chris Begya said the figures were for across the Borough. The member of the public disagreed and said that there had been three options on the sheet. Chris Begya said that it couldn’t be looked at in abstract as there were different figures depending on the options.

The member of public said the option to close Eastham would lead to thirty-six people being relocated and there may not be sufficient capacity, that the option to close Heswall would lead to spending more money expanding Pensby Wood and that there were contradictions in it. Chris Begya responded by saying they were all options and possibilities that could be explored as part of the consultation.

The member of the public said it was bizarre that they’d shut one and make another bigger. Chris Begya said it was part of a staff consultation and when she did the presentation she had explained what she meant.

A member of the public asked where people were going to go? Graham Hodkinson responded by saying that there was the potential for 105 additional half day sessions. He didn’t recognise the consultation figures. Chris Begya pointed out that this was without additional staff put in. A member of public said the figures were contradictory, Mr. Hodkinson responded by saying that if they were different he wanted to understand why.

A member of the public said that 133 people used Moreton, but a number of people were in the community, on Dale Farm, working in the Coop, delivering the Wirral News, but when officers rang up and asked how many people were in the centre they were told 91, they felt because people were in the community they were not counted which led to a big discrepancy.

Graham Hodkinson said that Dale Farm was a service in its own right, but they registered people who attended and didn’t knock off people doing community activity. The member of the public said that managers have said officers phone up asking for figures of how many are in the centre. Chris Begya said they needed to know how many are in the centre and where they were as people paying needed to be charged but that the people in the community did get captured.

The member of public said the ones in the community didn’t mean they were supported by staff as her daughter travelled with two other service users to a church run organisation.

A member of the public asked which way councillors would be voting at the Council meeting on 5th March?
Cllr Blakeley said he would vote against the closure of any large day centres.
Cllr Williams said the same thing.
Cllr Ian Lewis said he would vote not to close any day centres.
Cllr Anita Leech said they had not gone into full discussion, but they were looking at all aspects including the day centres, so she couldn’t give a proper answer.
Cllr Blakeley asked if she was supporting the Labour Cabinet proposals [to close a large day centre]?
Cllr Anita Leech said she wouldn’t like to answer at this point.

A member of the public said that if the day centre was closed it would take away her daughter’s independence as currently she travels there independently. Graham Hodkinson said that currently people travel all over the Borough and referred to some detailed work with Merseytravel. Some more comments were made on travelling.

Cllr Blakeley responded that people travelling independently was their choice, but if you close the centre you remove that choice.

A member of the public said the savings were £2 million over 3 years (approximately £700,000/year), but that extra money would be required in additional transport costs, the consultation and employing transport trainers, so she couldn’t see it saving more than £400,000/year. Therefore she felt the saving was negligible and not worth doing. If they were reducing the staffing, they needed to develop people and maximise their independence skills.

Another member of the public said her sister had profound learning disabilities and went to Moreton Day Centre, she said service users were crying as they don’t know what’s going to happen, where they’d go or what would happen to their friends and that they can’t cope with change.

Graham Hodkinson said in terms of people coping with change, he had spent most of his career closing down services, the first was long stay hospitals, then large residential homes, however he felt that people moved out of institutions “really loved it”. He did say that people on the autistic spectrum had difficulties with change and it had to be well-managed but that others “enjoy it like you and I do”.

A member of the public asked where the choices are, when people would be assessed and what if they say they don’t want to go. She said her son was very upset and he’d gone to the day centre for thirty-three years.

Graham Hodkinson said that he recognised in some cases it was a long period of time, but that they will offer people a service that meets their needs, but that there may well be change.

A member of the public said they had heard a lot of figures, but after next Tuesday how long would it be before they knew which day centre would close? Mr. Hodkinson said that subject to the decision being made, there would be a three-month consultation about closing centre X, meetings would be arranged with carers and this would be done within a week or two of the decision being made.

A member of the public asked where Mr. Hodkinson had got the information from he quoted as fact that people with learning difficulties love change? She said that they do not love change and suffer very badly if there are changes.

Graham Hodkinson said he could provide individual user comments and stories, such as a person who’d been in a residential home for twenty years and had chosen her shopping for the first time in her life.

A member of the public said that they were all scared of change, whether they had a learning disability or not and that change was very uncomfortable. Another member of the public said that change should be through choice and not forced upon people.

A member of the public said that the lady [referred to by Mr. Hodkinson] wrote to him, but their children couldn’t speak. Mr. Hodkinson said she was supported to write it, the member of the public said that if that was the case then it wasn’t her thoughts.

A member of the public said that a family had moved house half a mile and had a son with severe learning disabilities and it had taken months to calm him down. He said he had a daughter with Asperger’s Syndrome and trying to change anything was impossible and until you lived with people 24/7 you didn’t know.

Graham Hodkinson said that he had said people with autistic spectrum disorders which includes Asperger’s.

Leasowe, Saughall Massie and Moreton Area Forum 27th February 2013 Part 4 | Moreton Day Centre

Leasowe, Saughall Massie and Moreton Area Forum 27th February 2013 Part 4 | Moreton Day Centre

Continued from Part 3.

Mr. Hodkinson said that all the day centres were running with spare capacity, across three large ones and a number of small ones the average spare capacity was 15%, however they had the potential to offer greater capacity if like a proper business they were run at full capacity. He said that staffing levels would remain unchanged, so how was he to make savings? The contention was that the service could be run more efficiently by downsizing the number of buildings operating to reflect demand. He said currently there was the capacity for an extra 108 half-day sessions, but they had the capacity to run up to an extra thousand half day sessions if more people received a service from a smaller number of buildings.

He continued by saying that a key saving was reducing the staffing complement as it would run on a reduced staffing model to unlock additional capacity. As part of this it was their plan to close one large day centre. Graham Hodkinson referred to the consultation run in 2012 on transforming day services, which told them that people wanted smaller day centres with greater choice.

He said a key part of the plan was whether they would be better run as a social enterprise, mutual or council run company and referred to the What Really Matters consultation. The Director said that they would need a further round of consultation should the option be accepted, in which they would work directly with people affected and be clear about which would close. This would be done soon after the Council decision [on March 5th] and would compare the three large day centres on capacity, demand, unit costs, capital costs of refurbishment, added value such as community links and qualitative feedback. He would also go to each service with an officer for a meeting to enable for detailed consultation.

A member of the public said that he seemed confident he would get his own way on 5th March. Mr. Hodkinson replied that it was subject to a Council decision.

A member of the public asked what happened after the 5th March?
He answered that they have to plan, followed by that he has no say in the Council vote, but that they had to plan and have contingencies, they wanted a more efficient service and that a proper business would be run to full capacity.

A member of the public said that large day centres were more efficient than small day centres and that it was three times more expensive to run a small day centre than a large, so what was the rationale for closing a large day centre? He also asked about the recording of gifts to employees in the Department of Adult Social Services.

Graham Hodkinson said he was not sure about the final question and that the arrangements for gifts and hospitalities was a different area and that if large day services were cheaper, the cheapest model would be one large day service rather than the two proposed.

A member of the public quoted Graham saying “most efficient” and asked why they were proposing to close a large day centre if it was the most efficient service?

Continued at Part 5.