After 5 years of talk, muddle, delay and confusion, Labour abandon plan for Lowfields Elderly Care Village

£1 million wasted on aborted project?

Acomb care village site - project abandoned

Acomb care village site – project abandoned

Labour have today admitted that they have failed to deliver a new modern facility – aimed at older people – on the site of the former Lowfields school.

The Council report can be read by clicking here

Talks with potential contractors have been abandoned and the future of the site has been thrown into the air again.

The site had been “marketed” jointly with the Burnholme school site on the other side of the City (which may still go ahead)

Residents in the west of the City were hoping to see the equivalent of the Hartrigg Oaks facility, which Rowntree Housing manage on the other side to the City, built in Acomb. The Lowfields site was considered to be ideal because it is within walking distance of all major services and facilities. It is close to a frequent buss service.

Although the retirement village was agreed in 2010 by the last LibDem administration, the project was derailed when Labour took office in 2011. They tried unsuccessfully to develop the scheme as a Council run home…. believed to be a condition which a local government union imposed when funding Labours last election campaign.

“In house” provision proved to be unaffordable with build figures of over £20 million leaked to the media in 2012.

The project then went the same way as the Community Stadium plan, with additional requirements being heaped onto potential developers making the whole scheme unviable.

Instead of admitting failure 2 years ago, Labour continued with a doomed “procurement process” until today’s’ announcement brought the sorry saga to an end

The project was 5 years behind schedule and is probably a bigger example of mismanagement than even the Lendal Bridge fiasco.

 Clearly one big question is how much has been spent (staff time, “soft marketing”, plans, procurement etc.) so far on the Lowfields project?

Some sources put the figure at over £1 million.

The U turn will cause consternation in elderly care facilities across the City. Some were destined to close when occupiers moved to the brand new state of the art village.

Now it seems that some may be modernised with suggestions that there could be a new facility and health hub at Oakhaven.

The Council has promised to work with current providers to provide improved facilities especially for dementia sufferers.   A  £2.5m extension to Glen Lodge may be built for dementia care. 

The level of care at Auden House is to be “improved”.

Labour have said that they want to build houses and flats on the Lowfields school site.

Our view is that local residents should be consulted and that the Council should remember that, while the care village had widespread support, alternative building plans were viewed with suspicion by the local community.

Obviously all this will be overtaken by the elections in May when most people expect Labour to be ousted from the leadership of the York Council.

Liberal Democrats still believe in the principle of establishing a quiet, caring, environment for older people in Acomb.

We would look to make the Lowfields site available to providers with the experience and drive to move the project forward again.

The tragedy unfolds – year by year guide to failure (click for details)

  1. 2011 May – Developers offer to build care village at Lowfields
  2. 2011 Aug – “Future of care homes homes” consultation starts
  3. 2012 Jan – Council plans to build on Lowfields playing fields, according to leaked documents
  4. 2012 April – Council announce 2014 opening date for Lowfields care village
  5. 2012 May – “Private sector to run Lowfields care village” Council announces
  6. 2012 Dec – Council announce delays to Lowfields Care Village. 2014 opening date abandoned
  7. 2013 May – Lowfields care village opening slips to 2016; huge cost increase
  8. 2013 Nov – “Dementia Support” promised for Lowfields Care Village.
  9. 2014 July – Secrecy descends on school site plans
  10. 2014 Dec – Labour Cabinet member accused of “dithering” on Lowfield project
  11. 2015 Jan – “In light of continuing care crisis in NHS”, Scrutiny Committee chair forced to submit Freedom of Information request
  12. 2015 Feb 23rd – Council announces it is abandoning the Lowfields care village project

York support for new Universal Credit claimants

The Government’s Universal Credit scheme is being introduced in York by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) from today, 16 February 2015.

The scheme is being introduced incrementally. It will only affect single working-age job seekers making a new claim for benefits at the Job Centre and who will therefore be assessed for Universal Credit.

If they require support with their rent they will no longer claim Housing Benefit from the council, as the DWP will pay their housing costs as part of the single Universal Credit payment. However, it is important that they still make a claim for Council Tax support from the council if they are the Council Tax bill payer.

Universal Credit is a single payment that is made one monthly in arrears direct to the job seeker. In some circumstances payment of rent can be made directly to landlords, but this will be exceptional.

Residents such as those living in a refuge or living in accommodation where they receive care, support or supervision, such as a hostel, will continue to receive Housing Benefit. The scheme does not affect pensioners who are in receipt of Housing Benefit.

The council is working in partnership with organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau and Explore York Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd to provide support to local residents claiming Universal Credit, and to those who have problems with their personal budgets or making a claim on-line. The number to call for this help is 01904 551556.

From 16 February, single working age job seekers can claim Universal Credit on-line from the DWP at https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit 

Have your say on the future of Adult Social Care

York residents are being invited to have their say on the future of Adult Social Care in the city this month.

City of York Council clams it is “committed to helping York’s residents live independent and fulfilling lives based on choices that are important to them. The authority already knows that where residents need care and support in older age, they want these delivering in their own homes or in a community setting. They also want improved signposting, advice and guidance, and for the agencies involved in health and adult social care to join up more and provide greater awareness of the local support and facilities available to residents”.

“To build on this, the council is carrying out a quick five minute survey to understand what is important to those who are currently accessing adult social care, and those who may potentially need to access care and support in the future. The authority is also keen to hear from Carers and those in the voluntary sector.

The results of the consultation will be used to shape services (jargon) for the future, as part of the council’s Rewiring Public Services (jargon) Programme.

In Adult Social Care, the council’s rewiring (jargon)  programme is seeking to address some of the inherent failings of, and pressures on, the existing national model for adults’ care including a lack of clarity and understanding of the system by customers, an ageing population and people living longer with disease and disability.

Acomb care village site - project 3 years behind schedule

Acomb care village site – project 3 years behind schedule

Following engagement with residents, staff, elected members and partners, the council is looking at a number of different ways it can achieve the outcomes that local people want -relying less on hospital-based care and care homes, with more care delivered in resident’s homes and in their local neighbourhood -within the budget available”.

The consultation is available at www.rewiringyork.com

Sad really that the Council is making it so difficult for residents to react to their programme of cuts in public service provision.

Language, setting up separate web sites, failure to issue timely notices of meetings….. all adds up to confusion for many.

NB. Following on from our story about the Councils clumsy consultation processes and use of jargon we understand that later today (Thursday 12 February) between 2pm and 2:30pm, “Sally Burns, director of Communities & Neighbourhoods, will be answering people’s questions about proposed changes to Place-Based Services (jargon) in a live streamed Q&A session broadcast on YouTube and www.york.gov.uk/webcasts “

The Council are encouraging everyone to put forward their burning questions either before or during the event by email at rewiringyork@york.gov.uk or on Twitter using the #RewiringYork hashtag.

Dignity Action Day tomorrow

City of York Council is reinforcing the importance of treating customers receiving care and support services with dignity by supporting Dignity Action Day (Sunday 1 February).

Dignity Action Day is the brainchild of The Dignity in Care campaign, which aims to put dignity and respect at the heart of UK care services.

National Dignity Action Day aims to ensure people who use care services are treated as individuals and are given choice, control and a sense of purpose in their daily lives.

Dame Joan Bakewell, Dignity in Care Ambassador said: “Dignity Action Day highlights a more respectful way of behaving towards vulnerable people. The very old and the very young clearly need our respect, but it wouldn’t do any harm to spread the dignity message across the population then we can all benefit.”

The ‘Ten Point Dignity Challenges’ are:
1.Have a zero tolerance of all forms of abuse.
2.Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family.
3.Treat each person as an individual by offering a personalised service.
4.Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control .
5.Listen and support people to express their needs and wants.
6.Respect people’s right to privacy.
7.Ensure people feel able to complain without fear of retribution.
8.Engage with family members and carers as care partners.
9.Assist people to maintain confidence and positive self-esteem.
10.Act to alleviate people’s loneliness and isolation.

Free childcare reminder

Parents of toddlers in York are being reminded to check out whether they’re eligible for free childcare.

From 1 January over 585 two-year-olds in York are eligible for up to 15 hours of free childcare a week at a playgroup, day nursery or with a childminder as part of a national initiative.

Parents, who earn no more than £16,190 a year and receive Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit or Income Support, could be eligible for a free childcare place. Two-year-olds, who are looked after by the council automatically qualify for a place.

Since September 2014, children with special educational needs, those who have been adopted or with a residency/special guardianship order also qualify for a place.

The free places are available to children who are two years of age and whose parents fulfil the criteria. The places can be taken up the term after the child’s second birthday.

Parents can apply on line at www.yor-ok.org.uk/childcare or to find out more call the Family Information Service on 01904 554444 or text ‘’free place’ to 07624 802244.

Social care survey in York

Adults receiving care and support from City of York Council will be asked for their views and experiences of the services as part of a nationwide survey in January and February.

The Adults’ Social Care Survey, which will be sent out by every council in England and Wales, will be used by the authority to understand the experiences of people receiving its care and support services.

The survey will focus on customers’ quality of life, how well informed they are about services, their health and well-being and their levels of safety and security.

The questionnaire will go out to a total of 1,350 customers, and will include adults living in residential/nursing care, people with learning disabilities living in the community or supported residences as well as those receiving services in their own home.

The survey is due to be sent out to a cross section of customers over the next week. Accessible versions are available for customers who need them.

The findings from previous surveys and the opportunity to post general comments on the priorities for Adults’ Social Care are available on the council’s website at www.york.gov.uk/localaccount

The survey is just one of a number of ways that customers can give their views on the care and support they have received from City of York. Other options include feeding back directly to service providers, using the CQC ‘Share your experience’ link on the council’s Adult Social Care webpage(www.yor.gov.uk), or through Healthwatch York’s new feedback centre (www.healthwatchyork.co.uk).

Welcome to elderly persons homes in York

Over 300 staff from City of York Council’s Older People’s Homes will be carrying out a special training course which will put them in the shoes of a new resident moving in to their care home this month.

The council’s seven Older Person’s Homes are very popular with residents and their families, not least because of the high level of care provided by staff.

It’s hoped that the additional training session will further improve the experience for residents –  and their families – when they enter residential care.
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Lowfields Care Village – Dithering and evasion continues

As the months stretch into years, the responsible Cabinet member (Cunningham- Cross) was asked at the last Council meeting when she now thought that the care village – which was agreed in 2010 as the preferred use for the Lowfields School site – would actually be occupied.

Lowfields care village 2011 plans - now 3 years behind schedule

Lowfields care village 2011 plans – now 3 years behind schedule

“As it is now nearly 18 months since the Council started to seek partners to provide and run the Low fields Care Village, when was the “competitive dialogue” phase concluded, why did it take so long, and when does the Cabinet Member now expect work on site to start and the first homes to be occupied?”

The answer was evasive and failed to acknowledge that the failed project was one of the reasons why social care costs in the City are soaring out of control.

“This is an extremely complex and ambitious project and the competitive dialogue phase has not yet concluded. As it is still ongoing it is not possible to answer the other questions raised”.

The truth of the matter is that in 2011 and 2012 the project became mired in internal Labour party wrangling involving the local government unions which had funded its 2011 election campaign (and who wanted the council to run any new facilities).  

The Council realised over 2 years ago that an independent operator was needed but were then unable to make the investment and running costs stack up.

The project has been in limbo ever since.

We suspect that nothing will happen now until after the local elections in May, after which we would expect the project to be revived but with the private sector taking a major role.

It’s another example of inexperience and over ambition leading to the wrong answer for taxpayers.

It can be added to the Community Stadium project and the reuse of the Guildhall as examples of an administration making, what should be, straight forward decisions unnecessarily complex.

Brief history (click)

1. 2011 homes consultation

2. 2012 future of school site

3. 2013 Lowfields care village slips to 2016

4. Secrecy descends on school site plans

York Council heading for £1.3 million overspend?

A report being considered next week suggests that the York Council could over spend its budget this year by £1.3 million.

Coppergate - York Council failure, to win appeal against unlawful fines issue, could plunge it into a financial crisis

Coppergate – York Council failure, to win appeal against unlawful fines issue, could plunge it into a financial crisis

The – much delayed – half year report does not include any deficit which may arise from outstanding issues on the Coppergate/Lendal bridge fine refund policy.

Other areas of concern identified in the report include

  • Waste There is a forecast overspend of £98k due to lower than budgeted income from commercial waste, £100k shortfall in income from garden waste subscription, £100k due to the forecast shortfall in dividend from Yorwaste and £233k pressure at Household Waste and Recycling Centres primarily due to lower than expected income from charges
  • Car Parking There is a continued shortfall from parking income (£408k) and “ongoing monitoring will be required to assess the impact of the current parking initiatives, including the charges for Minster Badges, the free parking introduced in late June and pay-on-exit at Marygate”.
  • Social Care There is a significant projected overspend of £864k within the Elderly Persons Homes budgets.

A separate report identifies problems with the Councils capital investment programme.

Failure to move ahead with the reuse of the Guildhall means that £350,000 of “critical” repairs will now be needed.

And a major problem is arising with the Councils existing Elderly Persons Homes. These were supposed to have closed by now having been replaced by the new care village at Lowfields. But that project is 3 years behind schedule and the existing buildings will need to be patched up at a cost of £500,000!

 The report ominously warns “existing EPH’s are currently in need of renovation, some aspects of which are threatening their ability to pass Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection”.

Cabinet considers Care Act financial proposals

City of York Council’s Cabinet will consider plans for how customers paying for adult social care will be charged under the new Care Act 2014 legislation at a meeting later this month (16 December).Social care

The Care Act is the biggest change to how social care is delivered for over 60 years, and will lead to significant changes for the council, partner organisations and providers (including the voluntary sector), service users and carers. The changes will be implemented in two phases – April 2015 and April 2016.

The Care Act brings together best practice around personalisation and makes people’s rights to direct payments and a personal budget statutory, provisions that are already available in most local authorities, including York.

Some important changes in Phase 1 of the Act include;

  • · A national minimum eligibility criteria for service users and carers.
  • · The right to an assessment, support plan and personal budget regardless of personal financial circumstances.
  • · Carers are placed on an equal footing with those for whom they care for and can access an assessment against the eligibility criteria to identify what needs the person may have and what outcomes they are looking to achieve. The purpose of the assessment will support the determination of whether needs are eligible for care and support from the local authority.

Important changes in Phase 2 from April 2016 include-
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