Wirral West Constituency Committee asks Wirral Council’s Cabinet to decide not to close Girtrell Court
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Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 Part 1 of 6 starting at agenda item 8 (Community Question Time)
The question time item at the last Wirral West Constituency Committee was dominated by questions about Girtrell Court. Girtrell Court is a respite centre run by Wirral Council in Saughall Massie. On the 17th December 2015, Wirral Council’s Cabinet agreed to consult on closing Girtrell Court (the consultation ran from 17th December 2015 to the 29th January 2016).
The Chair (Cllr Jeff Green) took a number of questions from those connected with Girtrell Court. A transcript of some of the questions, followed by the answers Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Services) gave at the meeting are below.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair)Is there somebody from errm please the carers and users? Is there someone here? Is there someone who’d like to start off or ask a public question about that? Errm, yes, the young man at the far side there and there’s someone will find you with a microphone.
Young man (pictured above): Hello, good evening, can you hear me? Public: Yes, we can. Young man: Thank you Chair. Errm, really this question is directed to Graham [Hodkinson].
Thanks for coming tonight Graham [Hodkinson]. Errm, as you’re aware, we attended the meeting at the Town Hall, err where you gave a presentation about Girtrell.
I did a four-minute presentation myself where I’ve been given a list on the 13th of December of the alternative proposals for respite, instead of Girtrell Court. I spent a lot of time researching these properties and I found at the end of my investigation that none were suitable for my son Mark, who’s here.
Mark has cerebral palsy, he’s a wheelchair user but that’s dreadful but one of the big factors is wheelchair, wheelchair, wheelchair accessibility, errm, I was told at the meeting by Graham [Hodkinson] and his team that that list was an old list and we would be given a new list at the end of the meeting. By giving it to us at the end of the meeting obviously, we couldn’t look into it, therefore we couldn’t make any challenges.
Since looking through that list, again it’s inappropriate for my son and also there are fifty-one users that use Girtrell who have either mobility problems or are wheelchair users, to add insult to injury this list included fourteen old people’s homes. Now would you really want disabled young men, my son is thirty-three, errm being put in a nursing home with old people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia?
I think it’s totally inappropriate and I feel really insulted that places like that should be offered to us, as an alternative, but to go back a little bit earlier, I believe the capital, err the Cabinet were misled to even make this decision because I don’t believe that the facts that they were given were complete. Whoever, whoever completed the research didn’t complete, do a proper job in my estimation. They didn’t check about availability for wheelchairs and when they said there were vacancies. These vacancies were on the second or third floor of properties with no access. It’s really totally inappropriate and I really am ashamed that the Council could put such a horrendous list forward. Thank you.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): The gentleman at the back if I may?
David Jones (Wirral UNISON representative) (pictured above): Thank you very much Chair. My name’s David Jones, I’m a Wirral UNISON rep within Adult Social Services and I’m very concerned about the proposals to close Girtrell Court.
Not only are the Council proposing to make forty-six staff compulsorily redundant and not just forty-six staff, but staff that are valued, that are skilled, with twenty, thirty plus years experience amongst them. Valued by the people who use that service, that really concerns me and concerns me that a Labour Council is proposing to take that step.
Beyond that though I think it is really concerning about the impact on vulnerable people and their carers that support them and I don’t think that has been fully taken into account in terms of this proposal. The “protecting vulnerable people” is meant to be the top of the list of the priorities of this Council. This proposal doesn’t feel like that.
The impact, you know, will be testified I’m sure throughout the rest of this meeting by many of the carers who are here. It’s an ill thought out and ill-considered proposal in my opinion. That can be evidenced by the fact that in effect the Council have only started to undertake work to find a re-provisioning, alternative provision whatever you call it little more than in the past month.
You know the impact on people is massive and yet the preparations only being handled in the last month. There are real concerns about the availability of alternative provision as Peter’s just elucidated quite well. That’s not going to be found out until after Girtrell Court is closed! By then, it’s too late for the people who are relying upon that service!
We cannot go ahead with the proposals at this time. I think also it’s important to notice that you know the Council are making quite deep cuts in our services and I you know and I know and I fully recognise the cuts that have been made in the budget and are being passed down from the government and I recognise that.
But the figures for these cuts don’t add up! It’s reckoned that it’s going to save, depending on which paper you open, whether it’s £150,000 or £500,000. But the figures don’t add up! There are real holes in the figures, the information we’ve seen so far which is only partial, we still can’t get a breakdown for how the alternative respite is being costed out. The figures don’t add up and how can a Council go ahead with a massive change for some of the most vulnerable people on this peninsula without being sure of the figures? Without even being sure that it’s going to make the savings that they’ve promised?
I’m concerned that we’re putting people’s lives before money, err putting money before people’s lives anyway, but the figures don’t add up! And I would urge the whole of the Panel, but in particular the two Cabinet Members to seriously reflect on that and reject this proposal! It doesn’t make sense and the disruption is unjustified!
Please think again and on the 22nd of February reject this proposal and leave Girtrell Court as the residents want it!
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): The gentleman at the end of this particular row.
Member of public (pictured above): I don’t need a mic thanks, yeah I’m happy enough.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): Well if you could, because there are colleagues in there that..
Member of public: Right, OK. Yeah, that was very good from Dave there and I’m going to come from this from a slightly different angle, but the same as something similar to what Dave said there. I may be explaining one or two things.
My name’s Phil Simpson and I would like to put a question about the proposal, the closure of Girtrell Court respite home but before I come to my question, err I’d like to take a couple of seconds just to inform people here of a few facts about Girtrell Court and the proposed closure.
Wirral Borough Council claims they have to go to save £24 million out of the budget over the next twelve months and over the term of this parliament £126 million and I’ll sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong…
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): I have to tell you my experience is the figures change quite dramatically.
Member of the public: Well they might, they might well do. They say by closing Girtrell Court this is going to save £155,000 a year. However earlier in this year your own Chief Executive received a 30% pay increase and that’s a fact. They paid over £200,000 in a golden handshake to a Strategic Director when weeks later he was re-employed at the Wirral Chamber of Commerce.
Further, I’ll come back to that, they spend more than £130,000 on agency workers per a week! They spend another £20,000 or more on consultations, consultants per a week. Not a year, per a week!
The Council Leader is so stressed in his job, that he has employed a Labour Party campaigner to assist him on £45,000 a year. The increased amount in your council tax for this year is four percent. Two percent of that is ring fenced for the very thing we are arguing about here, which will keep Girtrell Court open. It’s for social care.
And finally this Council holds £124 million in reserves. One hundred and twenty-four million pounds in reserve, with one million pounds out of that one hundred and twenty-four could be used for Girtrell Court to keep it open for more than ten years and that’s a fact and there’s no reason why that couldn’t happen.
So my question is, why are you discriminating against disabled people in our society when you spend over £240,000 on consultation [consultants] for the Golf Resort and Spa to enrich the lives of the fit and healthy? It is discrimination and it’s a disgrace! And any Labour Council or councillor voting for this place to be closed, you’re an absolute disgrace. You’re a disgrace to the Labour movement and you should stop this now!
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): Far be it for me, because I’m not a Labour councillor, to chide anyone for being political or even attacking colleagues from, fellow Wirral West councillors from the Labour Party. We have always tried to keep this Committee non-partisan and I’d like to try and keep it that way if we possibly can. It’s not really their fault they made some wrong choices, but we’ll pick that up if we get into a discussion. The gentleman that indicates.
Bernard Halley (pictured above on the left): Thank you Mr. Chairman, My name’s Bernard Halley, I’d like to introduce you to my son. David, will you stand up please? Stand up, stand up, just come to the front.
This is my David. David is thirty-two. He’s got Down’s Syndrome. He’s often doubly incontinent, he has no sense of danger, he’s been run over twice because he just walks out into the road.
My wife and I have loved and looked after David for the last thirty-two years and God willing we’ll look after him for another thirty years. Can I ask the elected councillors who they think respite is for?
Respite is two-edged, respite is giving David a break from us, but equally it’s giving my wife and I a break from a twenty-four hour day, seven-day a week, three hundred and sixty-five day a year caring responsibility.
We allow David to go to Girtrell because we trust the staff at Girtrell, we trust the regime at Girtrell. We know that when David goes to Girtrell, he goes with friends that he knows, there is a community there that he can join in with and relate to.
The proposal has been made by the Council, in terms of alternative provision, as Peter has quite eloquently said involves a mishmash of old folks homes, places with dementia, where the current service users of Girtrell will be parachuted in for one week occasionally, they will be going in to a totally alien environment.
We as carers will have no confidence that we currently have about the level of care that they will receive in those environments. Girtrell Court is a god send to us. I’d like to ask the assembled audience here for a show of hands. Who of you here are carers? Do you trust Girtrell Court?
Bernard Halley: I’ll post further questions for the councillors. If you were proposing to close the service of such vital necessity, would not the logical thing to be to actually put in place an acceptable and valid alternative first before you decide to close the lifeline that we rely on.
The decisions that have been made by DASS [Department of Adult Social Services], possibly forced by budgetary constraints, although that is no excuse for them, do not give us a level of comfort that we need. They are totally illogical, I would plead with all the councillors, both here and in the rest of Wirral Borough Council, to defer any decision on Girtrell closure for at least this next financial year whilst you put something credible in place. That is the least we can expect of you.
The Chairman quite rightly said, he doesn’t want this to be a politically driven conversation and I respect that. I have no party political affiliation whatsoever, but I will make you a promise now, if the Labour Cabinet votes to close Girtrell, every one of the carers on Wirral will mobilise all of their friends, acquaintances, work colleagues to make democracy work for us come the May elections.
Your majority, your majority, marginal though it may be, will be slashed by the carers who will take you to task for this appalling decision. Thank you for your time.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): OK I’m going to take, I think we’ve got one more hand up, so we’ll have, oh, well we’ll have one more hand up, then we’re going to go to Graham Hodkinson. Would you like to go first, you’ve indicated for a while?
Peter Cowan: Right, thank you very much for that. I have a sister at Girtrell. She is seventy years of age this year. She is severely handicapped, she cannot fend for herself. She can’t talk, she can’t walk, can’t feed herself, can’t wash, can’t do anything and thank God we’ve got a place called Girtrell Court. We have a fantastic team that look after them and what has been said by the past people, speakers here I back them up to the hilt.
When she’s in there, when I, when she’s in there, I am one hundred per cent relieved, I’m confident she’s getting the best of care. Now if you send, if you send , if you carry out your programme of sending them out to all these hotels, Southport, Blackpool, holiday caravan sites in North Wales, this is ridiculous!
Who is going to look after them, how will their carers get out there to see their loved ones!?
Now, the other question is I want to ask is, the hotels, do they have hoists in there to lift these people out of their beds in the hotels, do they have tipped up baths for these our residents from Girtrell? No and another one is, do they have a CRB [Criminal Records Bureau check]? Right, we don’t know, we don’t know, we’ve gotta trust, I don’t trust them but I know the team in Girtrell have all these qualifications.
They can’t, the vast majority of people there cannot talk. The staff only look into their eyes and they know immediately what their requirements are. There is a skill that cannot be replaced if you disband Girtrell. Money cannot replace that.
I hear that you have £1 million to improve Girtrell! Why isn’t that being spent? Early on last year, we were talking about building six bungalows or something and I was told we don’t have the money now but initially you did! What happened, has it been squandered? I don’t know. I don’t know.
Right, the other thing is, I’m sorry my, I get very emotional and I become very mixed at times.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): You’re doing great.
Peter Cowan: I speak for all the people there, all a hundred and forty of them and our supporters here, what was I going to say? Bear with me one moment please.
Yeah, when these people our friends in Girtrell, if they go to these hotels and all that, they are open to abuse. If anything, if they have ill-treatment, or any other things, I don’t have to say that it’s a nasty word, they are not able to turn round and tell anybody, I’ve been abused or anything like that, so we’ve got, we remain confident with the staff we’ve got in Girtrell.
So please, please, please do not close it! Thank you.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): I’m going to ask Graham [Hodkinson] to answer some of those questions I think and then I know one or two colleagues have got something to say and I know I have.
Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Services) pictured above: OK, is that on? Yes. Good evening everyone, my name is Graham Hodkinson, I’m the Director of Adult Social Services.
Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Services): OK, is that on? Yes. OK, good evening everyone, my name is Graham Hodkinson, I’m the Director of Adult Social Services and in many ways I’m the person that most of these questions are addressed to.
I have met many of you before and we’ve met Mr. Cowan and I’ve met on a one-to-one with you. We’ve had a conversation about your sister and about the needs assessment we need to do particularly to make sure she gets the right accommodation. I’m very aware of the needs that your sister has and you know there’s no way that that hotel offer was anything to do with an offer for your sister.
It’s very much about the sort of care that she needs, is very intensive, one to one support I know that and that’s very clear.
In terms of this whole meeting and how people feel, I absolutely recognise how strongly people feel about this and how upsetting this sort of process is, so I do need to recognise that.
I also recognise that the staff at Girtrell Court, it’s a major, major issue and again very upsetting for them. So the context of my response is really to give some clear answers to the questions but I do completely understand that level of upset.
It’s very clear that people value Girtrell Court, they value the staff, they value the quality of the service that they get there. Nevertheless, we are faced with huge levels of demand and demand every year is increasing for adult social care and the money that I’ve got to spend on social care is decreasing and that as well as the other facts that we’ve discussed before is actually a fact.
So the budget I have available for adult social care has reduced by £25 million over a five-year period. Yet we’re supporting lots more people.
Now, one of the ways that I’ve been able to offer services to people and maintain that offer, is by no longer delivering those services directly as a Council but getting those services from the independent sector, from voluntary sector organisations and private sector organisations, the biggest of the two.
We’ve done that for our domiciliary care, we’ve done it for all our residential care for older people, we’ve provided supported living for people with learning disabilities, it’s a whole range of different services.
The only service that we currently directly deliver now is Girtrell Court. So part of this is that we are on a natural progression as a Council to commission these services from other organisations.
Now you may or may not agree with the evidence of that, but the fact is that when we put this proposal together, it cost for every bed at Girtrell Court, it cost us about £1,500 a week.
Even with the savings that I’ve identified, we’ll still have a £1,000 per a week per a bed for families that need respite care. So no one will not be getting respite care, anyone who requires respite will get respite.
Now, there are lots of questions and I completely under Peter that that list of what’s available in the market right now has some gaps in it and I would be the first one to acknowledge that.
All of the services, all of the services that we require are not in that list and I said at the time when I met families on the 22nd of January, that this is an indication of what’s available in the market right now, I was very clear about that and I said everyone will have a one-to-one needs assessment.
Now those needs assessments give us the picture in terms of what services are required, so that we can then commission new services. So we’re not stuck with just the services in the market right now, we can buy new services. This is something we’ve done time and time again as an organisation.
So, let me just say again, no one here that needs respite will not get a respite and the needs that you’ve identified, so Peter, you’ve said my son he needs wheelchair access, he needs support in a fully accessible environment, skilled people to do that, then that’s what we need to commission.
I can’t leave you without that, I have to provide that. So I have to commission that. Now, in terms of the closure, there is no closure date yet for Girtrell Court. The decision that’s been asked of the Council is a budgetary decision, they will make that decision. I can’t close Girtrell Court until we have the alternative services in place.
So the needs assessment and the commissioning of new services are absolutely bound up with whatever closure plans for Girtrell Court should we get to there. So I think that, those factors are very important, because a lot of the assumptions people are making about how dire this is are incorrect.
(heckling from audience)
Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Service): because you’ve said you’ll be left without a service and absolutely everyone will get a service.
(heckling from audience)
Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Service): I’m not going to reply to people shouting out.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): Can we just, can we let Graham [Hodkinson] finish his answer, then there’ll be a brief opportunity. To be honest, I haven’t heard his answer yet so, I think other colleagues won’t have heard his answer yet so it is useful for us as well.
Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Service): I am only answering some of the questions.
Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): There’s high feeling.
Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Service): I have only answered some of the questions that were raised, so one to one needs assessment are absolutely critical to building a picture of what we then need to commission.
Once they’ve been completed, they’re not completed till the middle of March. Once they’re completed, we can then come out with our plan in terms of what the alternative provision would be. So that’s very important.
Now, there was also a question around the £2.2 million precept and sorry the 2% precept which equates to £2.2 million and what that’s going to be used for.
Now, every year we work with all of our providers and we find out what their inflationary costs are, we find out what their pressures are as organisations.
And this year and for the next few years, they’ve all got to meet the cost of the Living Wage, the national Living Wage. It’s an absolute requirement for them.
The whole of that money will be used in order to pay for this sector, to pay for care. So that doesn’t give me any extra money. On top of that, I also have every year, round about £1 million worth of new people coming through with disabilities and around about £1 million worth of new people, older people coming through that need support.
So I’ve got to find ways to make the money that I’ve got available to me to stretch further. So that’s why this plan, this whole approach is to say I need to make the money I use for respite, I need to make it stretch further and that’s simply what I’ve got to do.
David raised issues about the staff from UNISON and I have to fully acknowledge that the impact on staff is significant, because as a department we don’t employ direct care staff any more, then the potential for redundancy is very high for this staff team and I would fully acknowledge what they’ve said a) about the quality of the workforce, but b) also about the impact on them as well.
There was then a discussion by the councillors and others which you can watch starting at the 30 minute 27 second mark here, which continues in a second clip of the Wirral West Constituency Committee meeting of the 11th February.
There was then a vote on the following motion moved by the Chair Cllr Jeff Green:
The voting on the resolution above was as follows:
In favour (9)
Jackie Hall MBE (community representative)
Cllr John Hale
Cllr Jeff Green
Cllr Gerry Ellis
Cllr David Elderton
Cllr Wendy Clements
Cllr Eddie Boult
Cllr Geoffrey Watt
Cllr David Burgess-Joyce
Cllr Matthew Patrick
Cllr Louise Reece-Jones
Cllr Stuart Whittingham
Cllr Tony Smith
Cllr Phillip Brightmore
John Smith (community representative)
After the vote, the Chair Cllr Jeff Green expressed the view that the resolution would be considered at the next Cabinet meeting. The next Cabinet meeting will be held on the 22nd February 2016 in Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED starting at 10.00am. The agenda and reports for that meeting can be found on Wirral Council’s website.
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