Northants County Council could U-turn over adult care cuts

One Angel Square, the new headquarters of Northamptonshire County Council
One Angel Square, the new headquarters of Northamptonshire County Council

County council bosses are planning a U-turn over some cuts to adult care services.

In February a number of Northants charities and voluntary organisations which provide services for deaf and blind people were told their funding was to end as part of widescale cuts.

But now it looks like some services could have their funding reinstated as the top officer in charge of adult services Anna Earnshaw is asking Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet to approve new short-term contracts.

The cuts worth £400,000 were to be levied against adult discretionary care services, which provide for deaf and blind people and those on the edge of mental health need.

The move was widely condemned by local charities who said the impact on those in need would be huge.

The new report, which will be considered on May 8, says: “The purpose of the report is to formalise current contractural arrangements with existing providers. This approach will also ensure the continuity of service and without it the service will be forced to make arrangements to end the existing services affected and potentially move existing services users to new providers.”

Organisations whose service provision had been threatened have not yet had any communication from NCC about the change of plans.

Chief executive of DeafConnect Joanna Steel, which provides services for 400 adults, said she had to search for council papers online to find out any information.

She said: “This is good news that our funding looks to be back on the agenda, but it is incredibly disappointing that we have not heard anything from anyone at the county council.

“As a voluntary sector we have struggled to work with Northamptonshire County Council as they have never respected the contribution we make under the prevention agenda.

“We plug a huge gap in what is statutorily provided against what is needed.”

Alex Lohman, chief executive of the Northamptonshire Association for the Blind (NAB), said he had also not heard anything from the authority and had not had a response to a letter protesting against the cuts.

The new contract for DeafConnect could be worth £37,800 and the NAB contract is proposed at £70,219.

Once these short-term contracts are agreed the adult social care department then plans to create a commissioning procurement programme.

The adult social services provision has been in trouble for some time, as the need in Northamptonshire has been increasing while funding provided by central government has been decreasing.

The service is also understaffed and currently has 51 vacancies in a 306-capacity workforce.

The new report says a high turnover of staff and managers over the past few years had led to a lack of planning and oversight of contracts. A number of contracts which Anna Earnshaw is now looking to formalise actually ran out in March 2017.

And the service is still facing severe difficulties with a number of complaints to sift through.

The report says: “Despite the recent work on backlogs across Adult Social Services there are still a large number of supplier letters, complaints and claims to be addressed and reviewed.”

NCC’s failed ‘next generation’ model masterminded by previous chief executive Paul Blantern has led to a series of recent changes in the adult social care department.

In 2013 limited company Olympus Care Services was established and had a remit for areas such as dementia care and care for people at home. However, at the start of this year the service and its 2,000 staff were bought back in house and realigned with all other adult services.