York Council set to underspend budget allocated to help poor

Local Assistance Scheme only half forecast

It looks like the York Council will underspend its budget for welfare payments during the current financial year.

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click to enlarge

The budget was delegated to the Council by the government replacing – in part – the Social Welfare fund.

It is intended to make emergency payments to less well off people who encounter unexpected expenses.

The York scheme is called the York Financial Assistance Scheme (YFAS).  Its explanatory booklet says that the YFAS can be used to help with, for example:

• Expenses and household items to help you move out of residential care or stay in your home

• Rent or council tax payments

• Financial assistance in an emergency.

By the end of January nearly half of the Council’s £315,000 YFAS budget had not been committed.

A total of 1062 payments had been authorised with the authority saying that 176 of them were made to people aged under 25.

Given that the budget is not being fully spent this year, it is surprising that the Council announced last week that it will  to add another £100,000 to the payments that it intends to make next year


Meanwhile many fears about Council Tax income are proving to be unfounded.

The York Council had collected 85% of monies due by the end of December. The same percentage as in 2012.

However the number in arrears with their Council Tax payments had increased from 5556 in 2012 to 7040 in 2013.

Of these 2601 were receiving Council Tax support (formerly known as “benefit”)

Perhaps surprisingly the numbers who had been referred to bailiffs had fallen from 3996 to 2902

The Council is budgeting next year to collect an additional £1/4 million through “further improvement of collection performance”.

Connecting Care in York

‘Connecting Care’, the City of York Local Account for Adult Social Care for 2013 is now online.

The report sets out the current local picture of adult social care services with health and financial data and how services are performing, along with the strategic aims for improving and integrating health and social care services in the future.

To view Connecting Care visit www.york.gov.uk/localaccount

Elderly in York deserve better

Windsor House

Windsor House

The Councils Labour leadership are apparently visiting the Windsor House Elderly Persons Home (EPH) this week. The Home is trialling some new techniques aimed at helping people with dementia.

The Councillors will no doubt also be seeking to persuade staff that the ill fated social care modernisation programme has overcome the chronic delays that have dogged it since Labour took office in 2011.

The consolidated EPH programme  was conceived by the LibDems in 2010.

In July 2011 Labour  embarked on another, ultimately fruitless, consultation. This was to appease UNISON who had funded their election campaign.

Councillor hits out at lack of consultation over Gale Farm Court charges

Gale Farm Court sheltered accommodation

Gale Farm Court sheltered accommodation

Liberal Democrats have criticised a lack of consultation on price increases for residents in sheltered housing who use the council’s warden call service.

At this week’s Decision Session Labour’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services, Cllr Tracey Simpson-Laing, rubber-stamped proposals to increase the charges for residents using the 24-hour support service.

12 months ago Cllr Laing refused to meet Gale Farm Court residents but tried to blame the LibDems for her plans to increase warden call charges

12 months ago Cllr Laing refused to meet Gale Farm Court residents but tried to blame the LibDems for her plans to increase warden call charges

The report admitted that the price increases could “result in financial hardship for vulnerable elderly tenants”.


Despite these concerns, no consultation was undertaken with sheltered housing tenants on the proposed changes and there are fears that the first residents will know about the plans is when they receive a letter from City of York Council.

Cllr Lynn Jeffries the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Equalities, attended the meeting and criticised the lack of engagement with tenants. She commented:

“This change will affect some of the most vulnerable residents in York and it is unacceptable that neither they nor their families were asked for their views on the price increases.


York social care website attracts small number of visitors

The  “new” social care website – Connect to Support – has had over 700 visitors.

click to access

click to access

The site enables older people, those with disabilities, or those who simply need some support to remain independent, to shop for support services and products, find local activities and groups and look up information and advice – since it “officially” launched in November.

The site had caused some concern when it went  live last Spring without any explanation

The site brings together several resources that will give adults in the city a new and innovative way of finding out what options are available to meet their needs.

For more information on how Connect to Support visit www.connecttosupport.org/york

York Council Leadership promises action on bed blocking.

Bed blocking

NHS England list York as one of the worst communities for speedy hospital discharges

NHS England have today published data click here  showing that in October 2013, the City was one of the worst communities in England for delayed transfer of care.

Of the 28 patients awaiting a move from York hospitals at the end of October, 11 were awaiting care or nursing home placements while 7 were waiting for a care in the community support package.

Both are the responsibility of the York Council to provide

Although the Council Leadership is now promising to fix the problem “within 6 months”, they have failed to explain why the developing crisis has not been mentioned in any of the reports published by members of the Labour Cabinet over the last 6 months.

The Leaders own report, being considered by the Council tomorrow (Thursday), makes no mention of the problems.

Separately, a resident has submitted a Freedom of Information request seeking an explanation for the apparent attempt to cover up the delayed discharges scandal. The wording of the request can be read by clicking here.

Hospital “bed blocking” on increase in York

Bed blocking

The number of delayed discharges from hospital is increasing as the York Council struggles to provide care in the community places.

The delays mean that the Council has to pay substantial “fines” and in turn the “blockage” can prevent new patients being admitted to NHS beds.

The delays have reached record levels as the weekly average figures (for patients awaiting discharge to community placements) for the last few years reveal.

  • 2009/10 – 7.98
  • 2010/11 – 10.13
  • 2011/12 – 8.69
  • 2012/13 – 10.67
  • 2013/14 – 11.00 (to September)

The figures were reported to both the York Council’s “Cabinet” on 5th November and its Health Scrutiny Committee on 27th November

Neither minuted any action which they planned take to address the growing crisis.

Some of the delays are being put down to inadequate capacity in the “reablement” unit. This team seeks to train former patients to be more self-reliant.

It is the winter period when demand for NHS beds is at its highest.

The last thing that the City needs is for those that are available to be blocked by people who could, with support, be accommodated in their own homes.

Oliver House – Council on brink of making correct decision!

After nearly two years of indecision, the York Council is being recommended next week to put Oliver House (the former elderly person’s home at the end of Priory Street) on the open market.

Oliver House York

The building has been empty since the home was closed in April 2012.

The prime site is expected to bring in substantial offers from residential developers. The Council has budgeted to receive £450,000 from the sale of the site.

In reality the sale is likely to produce a much higher figure.

Any new homes provided there would reduce the pressure to build on greenfield land and would provide the Council with a useful capital receipt. It would help to offset the huge increase in debts accumulated by the present Labour administration.

The Council had been dithering over proposals to lease Oliver House to voluntary groups which are currently located in Holgate Villas. The Council spent £15,000 on a feasibility study for the conversion of the building. It revealed that the costs of converting the building could be as much as £1 million.

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Additionally it has been costing the Council £30,000 a year to keep the building empty.

Local residents – led by Liberal Democrats – had expressed increasing concerns about the buildings future

Many pointed out that the voluntary groups involved did not need a prime site location and that it would make more sense for the Council to ensure that they had alternative rented accommodation available.
There is still a lot of unoccupied office space in the City.

It was hoped that suitable buildings might be identified in sub-urban locations which were in need of regeneration. Acomb, for example, has never recovered from the Councils decision to close its office in the Front Street area.

However, it now seems that the Council is restricting its office search to the city centre. Two possible locations are being evaluated

The office building is likely to include other uses and will be dubbed a “Health and Social Care Hub”. The Council is looking to replace it in 2 or 3 years time with a purpose designed facility. The NHS will make a financial contribution to this new “one stop shop” style centre.

The costs of the commercial office lease are expected to be covered by the rents paid by the tenants.

2947 residents have blue badges in York

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click to enlarge

Nearly 3000 residents have been issued with “blue badges” in York.

The badges entitle the owner to park “on street” closer to amenities than otherwise would be the case.

The vast majority of the badges have been issued to those with walking disabilities or who receive DLA.

In addition there is a green badge scheme in operation for the severely disabled. This allows access to parking within the City centre.

The York Council controversially refused to exempt green badge holder’s from the Lendal Bridge access restrictions a couple of months ago.

Applications details can be found by clicking here

NO cost to taxpayers for “shop4support” web site …..yet

click to access

click to access

The York Council is saying that it is not paying for the web site which provides Eaccess to some services for disabled residents.

However it may have to contribute £15,000 a year to maintain the site which lists a mixture of public and private sector service suppliers.

The “shop4support” web site became available earlier in the year but has received little publicity. It bears the City of York Council logo.

Lib Dem Councillor Lynn Jeffries asked at the last Council meeting “how the Cabinet member was ensuring that the information contained on the website is accurate, accessible, comprehensive and up to date?”

No detailed response was provided other than to say that the “family Information service” is responsible for the content.

It remains unclear how decisions are made on which organisations to advertise on the site.

The web site is apparently to be formally launched later in the year