Cashless giving supports rough sleepers to get earlier help, say charities

A new cashless giving option to support rough sleepers is being offered as an alternative to giving cash direct which can delay them getting help into safer lives.

Administered by Two Ridings Community Foundation, this easy scheme lets people donate by text to a fund which they can be confident will support genuinely homeless people off the streets and into safer and more stable lives by specialised charities.

The fund has been set up by the council in partnership with Two Ridings, which runs the York Disaster Fund. Proceeds will be shared among Changing Lives, The Salvation Army and Carecent.

These charities offer people sleeping rough immediate practical support, helps them into hostels, and then into longer term support. This includes supporting those with mental health or substance misuse issues, training and finding employment, finding a home and maintaining a tenancy.

A similar scheme administered by Changing Lives was launched in November 2016. Money raised was shared by the charities to pay for personalised support. This included paying for haircuts for those preparing for interviews; copies of identification so bank accounts can be opened and tenancies secured; a first months’ rent for a flat; and gym passes to support work to stop substance misuse and improve mental health.

People who wish to help are asked to give by texting the message YORK35 £ to the number 70070, indicating how much they wish to give after the £.

Nicky Gladstone of charity Carecent, said: “People in York are always very generous, and it just doesn’t feel right to walk past people who are begging on the streets.

“It can be hard to realise that giving money directly to people who beg can prolong their situation and discourage them from seeking the right help and support.

“If you see someone begging, give them a smile and say hello. Offer to buy them a coffee or a sandwich. And if you want to give money, then do consider donating by text to groups who can really make a difference.”

Please text YORK35 £3 – or whatever sum you’d like to give – to 70070.

Donations from the public will be shared between:

  • Carecent, a York-based breakfast centre which provides food and clothing, support and advice
  • The Salvation Army’s Early Intervention and Prevention Team in York which identifies vulnerable people on the street and, provides accommodation, health assessments and food among other services
  • Changing Lives provides accommodation and support to homeless men and women in York.

As usual at Christmastime, local services continue to provide meals and support for people who experience homelessness, including donated presents to help make the day special.

Anyone who sees someone sleeping rough can ring Streetwise on 0300 500 0194, a national helpline which alerts local agencies to visit the location and offer support.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Report

City of York Council has apologised after being found at fault by the local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) for not providing appropriate supervision for the parents of a child in its care in hospital and for not responding to their complaint quickly enough.

The council has already fully accepted all the recommendations made by the Ombudsman.

Maxine Squire, Interim Corporate Director for Children, Education and Communities, City of York Council, said: “We are extremely sorry for the distress caused and have apologised unreservedly to the family.

“We fully accept the Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations. We have already taken action to ensure that lessons are learnt from this case and that our procedures are improved.”

The council will make a formal response to the Ombudsman on actions that have been taken after considering a report from the LGSCO at a meeting on 29 November.

The council has already carried out the following recommendations from the Ombudsman:

  • An apology has been made to the complainants for the failure to review supervision arrangements for their child and for the delays in dealing with their complaint.
  • The complainants have been paid £2000 for the distress caused.
  • The council has reviewed its policies to ensure that supervision arrangements can be made available for relatives visiting looked after children in hospital.
  • The council has contacted the out-of-area hospital and council involved in the case to develop closer working relationships for when looked after children receive treatment outside York.

The authority is currently reviewing the training needs of council officers at all levels in relation to the statutory complaints process and the handling of statutory children’s complaints to ensure that they are being dealt with in line with statutory timescales, as per the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

Copies of the Ombudsman’s report are available from West Offices, Station Rise, YO1 6GA for three weeks from 9 November until 30 November 2018 or from www.lgo.org.uk

Council launches new campaign to recruit foster carers

City of York Council is launching a new campaign to encourage people who have previous experience of working with children or young people to consider becoming foster carers.

Around 100 children and young people are looked after by foster carers at any time in York and the authority is always looking for new carers who can bring different skills to the role.

Councillor Keith Myers, the council’s executive member for education, children and young people, said: “Foster carers do an incredible job to support, care for and nurture some of our most vulnerable young people.

“Many of the young people who come into our care have faced significant challenges in their young lives, which is why people with previous experience of working with children or young people can make such good foster carers.”

Maxine Squire, Interim Corporate Director for Children, Education and Communities, said: “Foster carers are a vital part of our team to support vulnerable young people in York and we’re always looking to recruit people with new skills. If you’re considering a change, and want to put something back into your local community, I’d urge you to consider fostering in York.”

For more information on fostering in York, including the range of support given to foster carers in York, both by their peers and by the local authority, visit www.york.gov.uk/fostering or call 01904 555678

Waiting times go from nine weeks to one as new social care approach develops in York

The council’s new approach to adult social care has been given unanimous approval by customers, as the next Talking Point opens on Thursday 25 October at York Explore.

Residents needing support and help can visit social care staff at the library between 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm every Thursday, for both drop-in support and pre-booked appointments.

The service gives residents earlier access to face-to-face conversations with adult social care staff, closer to where they live at Talking Points. These conversations help identify issues allowing staff to refer residents to a wide variety of appropriate support, from physiotherapists to opticians, to local activities and resources.

This quicker, tailored and highly effective access to information, advice and support started at Talking Points which opened at Lidgett Grove Methodist Church in March 2018 and continued with the opening of a Talking Point at Oaken Grove, Haxby in July this year.

Feedback from people using this informal but informative option at Lidgett Grove and Oaken Grove have so far expressed over 95% satisfaction with the outcome of their conversations and actions taken. All service users saying they would recommend Talking Points.

Since March this year, the impact of the first Talking Point at Lidgett Grove has included:

  • Slashing waiting times for a full social care assessment, from an average nine weeks to less than a week. This is the time between an initial meeting and then discussing support needs in detail and putting support in place at a hub
  • Over 95% of people invited to the hub have said they were satisfied with the experience and, most importantly, the actions and outcome of their conversation at Talking Point
  • More than half of the people who, under the old system would usually have opted for a full social care assessment, felt the support they were offered met their needs and so declined the full assessment
  • The number of people needing paid-for social care services has fallen from 65%, to 43%.

New to the York Explore Talking Point are drop-in sessions as well as pre-booked appointments.

Further Talking Points will continue to open across the city as the programme develops.

Barbara Swinn, York Explore manager, said: “After the terrific start of Talking Point in Acomb and Haxby we’re looking forward to welcoming residents of all ages so they can chat with Talking Point staff about how together, we and they and the community, can bring about improvements to their lives and how they want to live it.”

Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member for health and adult social care said: “This third Talking Point in the centre of York serves people who find it easier to come and see us in town, and is the latest in a series which we plan to open across the city. I’m delighted to hear about the positive impact our other Talking Points are having on people’s lives.

“Our experience in York so far, is in line with the better experiences and outcomes for residents reported in other cities using this approach. It makes it easier for residents to access and source effective early intervention and support.”

Wintertime adult social care boost

City of York Council has been allocated £731,000 by the Government to support adult social care needs this winter

The funding is targeted at people who don’t need to be in hospital but who do need care. It will support people as they return home whilst freeing up more hospital beds, including getting people safely back home from hospital at the weekends.

While the detailed grant conditions have not yet been shared, we will be working closely with our NHS partners to target the money towards initiatives which will make the biggest difference to the city’s more vulnerable residents and to the whole system.

Prime York city centre redevelopment site still unused

The former Willow House elderly persons home on Long Close Lane, next to the Bar Walls, is still empty. The buildings, which are in reasonable condition, were abandoned by the Council in early 2017.

The site was slated for use as student flats following a successful planning application in October last year.

The site was then  subject to a wrangle about the use of, and continued access to, adjacent green space.

The security fencing makes a poor backdrop for the many visitors who walk along the adjacent walls.

Further down Long Moor Lane, highway officials have allowed  bushes  to completely block the public footpath; adding to the general impression of neglect in the area.

Willow House stands abandoned with no sign of redevelopment work starting.

Hedges completely block public footpath

£100 to park your car. Expensive neighbourhood

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.