So how good is the York Council at communicating?

The York Council is trumpeting today that, in an independent test, it scored a maximum 4 stars score for its web site. In a media release it claims that this ranks it in the 37 best (out of 414 checked) in the country according to an assessment published by SOCITM

A closer look at the figures reveals that only Social Care services, road works and refuse collection were checked. It is more than ironic that green bin emptying in parts of the City collapsed last week with little or no information on recovery being provided on the Councils web site.

On line access to parking space availability has been unavailable now for over 4 years.

Even its confusing array of secondary web sites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts provided little reliable information about recovery plans while it would be Friday evening before the Council tweeted that it needed to recruit more HGV drivers.

But the main concern remains that, despite assurances over the last 5 years or more, the “report it” pages, which should allow any public service issue to be reported 24/7, remains inadequate. Many services, such as Council housing, are simply not listed while it is impossible to corelate complaint reference numbers with the original issue.

The best way to test the Council web site is to use the search engine visible on the first page.  Listings are less than intuitive.

Perhaps coincidentally, officials will be updating Councillors next week on “progress” made with their digital services programme.

They say that only street lighting and street cleansing issues can by reported and resolved digitally. Both however need a more refined system and are scheduled for a “makeover”..

On the other hand officials claim some success in automating the collection of Council Tax, in electoral registration (although the numbers registered to vote appears to be falling) and in dealing with benefit claims.

They are still unable to produce stats which indicate how long digital or email reports take to resolve.

No customer satisfaction surveys have been undertaken on electronic services.

Many reports like these have been produced over the years but with subsequent progress being glacial.

Safeguarding Week 2018 in York

From the 25 to the 29 June, York will be promoting Safeguarding Week 2018, organised by the  Safeguarding Adults Board and Local Safeguarding Children’s Board in collaboration with a variety of local organisations. This is an opportunity to raise awareness and share in a city wide conversation about the work of safeguarding partnerships across the region and the prevention of dangers concerning vulnerable individuals in the 21st century.

This year the Safeguarding Adults Board. and City of York Council have chosen to focus awareness on financial abuse. Over the course of the week, there  will be a variety of opportunities to learn about available support and preventative measures you can take  at events across the city and via our social media channels.

Cllr Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health said:
“It is so important for all of us to educate ourselves as to the risks of financial scams and the realities of financial abuse. Safeguarding Week is an opportunity to inform our residents of how to protect themselves and their loved ones from the devastating effects of this kind of abuse and to safeguard the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Financial abuse can show itself in a multitude of ways; from financial control within a relationship, to the targeting of vulnerable individuals from organised crime groups in the form of financial scams. It is important to stay informed and educated in order to notice when something doesn’t look quite right.

The month of June also marks Scam Awareness month, an annual opportunity to both raise public awareness and stand against crimes and predatory practices which impact the lives of millions across the country.

Visit citizensadvice.org.uk for more information and resources on preventing, spotting and reporting scams.  (more…)

York Council social enterprise company crashes

We warned in 2013 (click) that the Council plan, to hive off some social care services to a new company, were “highly risky”.

The plan was to start a “Be Independent” social enterprise to run warden call and disabled equipment loan services.

Most of the income for the new organisation would still come from the Council. It was claimed though that it could complete for other business thereby reducing the demands on taxpayers.

5 years later and it is clear that the company has failed. This is not entirely surprising as the draft  “business plan” (still available to view here “on line”) published in 2013 actually forecast that the operation would be loss making

A report the Council’s Executive next week suggests that the service be brought back under the Councils direct control.

The number of customers using the service has fallen from 2878 to 2448, about half of which are subsidised by the Council.

“Be Independent” have failed to win any new contracts during the last 5 years and lost an existing contract with the NHS to provide equipment services in the Vale of York.

The company is now loss making.

In the last financial year, it recorded a working deficit of £167,000.

If the work transfers back to the Council it will cost taxpayers an additional £95,000 a year.

One of the negative aspects of hiving off activities is that some jobs get a pay hike. The Council says that staff at “Be Independent” in the main enjoy the same conditions of service as Council employees. TUPE would therefore apply to any transferees.

The Council report fails to identify the salaries being paid to all staff although £273,000 pa is listed as “Directors remuneration”. (The latest accounts registered with Company House for 2017 list Directors remuneration as £106.443).

There was until last year one CYC appointed Director (Cllr Funnell) but this appointment was terminated on 31st March 2017. It is unclear who has been charged with safeguarding the Councils interests on the “Be Independent” board since then.

There is no comparison in the papers between the 2013 business plan and outturns.

External legal advice is apparently  being taken by the Council.

York parkrun backs call for more foster carers

York parkrun is getting on its marks to help City of York Council recruit 25 foster carers.

The family-orientated charity is backing the council to find more stable caring foster homes for local children and young people in care.

During Foster Care Fortnight (14-26 May 2018), on Saturday 19 May members of City of York Council’s fostering team will help steward and take part in the weekly race which runs on the Knavesmire.

The need for more carers is to replace those who have retired as well as to look after the children who come into care. These range from babies to teenagers, as well as siblings who need to stay together, and young people with additional needs.

The council is committed to keeping the children in its care in the city, where the best fostering options are and where changes for the children are kept minimal.

The rewards of fostering come with some of the region’s best training and support. And most of all, the satisfaction of helping a child look forward to a brighter future. (more…)

York residents invited to discuss the latest Talking Point in adult social care

After the successful opening of York’s first Talking Point in the Acomb area, residents are being invited to have their say on the next stage of the programme.

City of York Council is planning to open another hub to the north of the city and is asking residents to attend a community event at Oaken Grove Community centre on Tuesday 22 May between 10am and 12pm.

The second Talking Point is due be situated in Haxby and Wigginton, with the catchment area encompassing Huntington and New Earswick and Rawcliffe and Clifton Without.

York’s first Talking Point opened its doors at Lidgett Grove Methodist Church in late March with a focus on giving residents earlier access to face to face conversations with adult social care staff closer to where they live.

(more…)

Extra funding released for York’s adult social care services

Over £1.2 million of additional funding has tonight been made available to help relieve pressure on York’s adult social care services.

The Executive have agreed to maintain and release £800,000 recurring budget set aside by the Liberal Democrats in the 2018/19 budget, as well as a non-recurring sum of £457,000 in adult social care support.

To date, York has made huge improvements in reducing its delayed transfers of care, as a result of investment that has been already made. Furthermore, many services have been working closely with partners to support people in care and secure their independence to remain at home, avoiding needless admissions to hospital.

In the past year, a number of successful initiatives have made a positive impact on people’s lives  For example, the YorWellbeing falls prevention service, which has had a significant impact in reducing injuries and hospital admissions.  Tonight’s approval could see this service expanded.

Cllr Carol Runciman, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Adult Social Care, said:

“There is no doubt; the Winter crisis has heaped an overwhelming amount of pressure on the York Teaching Hospital and our adult care services.”

“In response, the Liberal Democrats sought to make significant investment in our adult social care services via the Council’s 2018/19 budget and I am very pleased that the report discussed at Executive tonight demonstrates the positive impact of our investment in those services.”

“Tonight, we have reaffirmed our commitment to support and protect vulnerable residents, particularly in helping them live more independently.  This investment will allow us to extend our already successful schemes and allow us to continue in tackling system pressures within health and social care.”

Additional investment in adult social care in York

Councillors will be asked to release funds of £1.25m for adult social care when they meet on 8 May 2018.

At the meeting the Executive will hear about the approach adult social care is taking with partners to support people with care and support needs, maximising their independence and capacity to remain at home, avoid hospital admission and return home as soon as possible from hospital.

As well as hearing about progress on the work we are doing to increase independence, councillors will be asked to agree to maintain current additional activity and release £800,000 recurring budget set aside in the 2018/19 budget, as well as the non recurring £457,000 adult social care support grant budget to fund further support.

In the past year the council has implemented a number of successful initiatives which have made a significant and positive impact on people’s lives.

They include the YorWellbeing falls prevention service, which has had a positive impact in reducing injuries and hospital admission. The service offers free home safety visits to all residents in Clifton and Guildhall Wards who want practical help and advice to reduce the risk of falls in their home. The release of funds would see further investment in the service expand into other areas in the city  increased capacity to support more residents.

Another example is the council’s local area coordinators in Westfield, Tang Hall and Huntington and New Earswick. The team people access community support, delaying and or preventing the need for statutory services.  Further funding will see the scheme expanded.

As well as continue this work,  a review of these initiatives has informed the following recommendations including increasing the level of reablement provision, maintain seven days a week social work to ensure capacity is available at weekends and promote and maintain the capacity and sustainability of home care.  Investment is also suggested for step down beds to increase the number available.

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Pensioners concerns over Council sheltered housing plans

Lincoln Court

Occupants of Lincoln Court had their first chance on Thursday to comment on the Council’s plans to modernise their sheltered accommodation.

In the main, the upgrade plans – which include new kitchens, bathrooms, heating and wiring, new front doors and windows, a new door entry system, roof repairs and external & internal decoration – were welcomed.

However, concern was expressed over the time that residents would be expected to live on a “building site”. This arises out of the proposal to demolish the adjacent Windsor House building and replace it with a centre for the disabled.

Proposed new layout

Residents, most of whom are in their 70’s and 80’s, felt that they could be inconvenienced for as long as three years while the work took place.

It emerged at the meeting that most of the work on Lincoln Court would not be undertaken until the adjacent new building had been completed. This led residents to point out that the noise and dust generated by any demolition process would filter into their living areas because of the inadequacies of the existing doors and windows.

Prior to the meeting the Councils plans to address parking and traffic congestion problems on Ascot Way had been criticised and these issues were raised again by residents. Residents were particularly angry that they might be expected to pay for residents parking permits because of pressure on staff parking. A plan was also needed to address parking needs during the building and modernisation phases.

Residents are also concerned that the existing bus stop – located outside Windsor House – is not shown on the new plans.

One resident went further and said

Hedges blocked view and light from Lincoln Court flats last summer

The new homes will take away our landing sitting areas, take away all light in the corridors and fill the few outside areas we have. The small, existing garden will not be freely available as we are to become, in effect, a community centre and can only access it via the community room (which is to be in use most of the time). We are also expected to cover all the running costs of the shared facilities as the fuel costs are shared by residents and no charges made to outside departments, clients etc. Even the electricity costs of all the offices and rest areas will be paid by us – we were told that it isn’t a problem at other developments & we can also use facilities! Not good enough”. 

Officials have apparently threatened to install security doors on each corridor prompting concerns that the building would resemble a “prison”.

Residents had complained last year about the Councils failure to cut a tall hedge at the rear of the properties. The hedge effectively blocked light from the flats, prompting a feeling of isolation.

The consultation event was dismissed by some as a “paper exercise” and there were calls for a fundamental rethink before planning permission was sought.

Local Councillors are now looking into the issues raised.

Carlton Tavern site still being promoted for elderly persons home use.

Interesting that the Council strategy for providing elderly persons care beds is still dependent on a 74 bed facility on the Carlton Tavern site.

The site was recently refused planning permission for an elderly persons care home by the Council’s own planning committee.

The revelation comes in a paper which considers how the  Morrell House home will be closed.

City of York care strategy report April 2018