Plan for disabled centre in Ascot Way faces £350,000 financial hurdle

A report being presented to a Council meeting next week says that the cost to taxpayers of developing a Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children and their families in Ascot Way will be more than expected.

An additional £350,000 will have to be borrowed to finance the £4.3 million project.

This is mainly the result of a lower than expected valuation of The Glen Short Breaks centre which is to be sold to help pay for the new development.

When originally suggested, the expectation was that the Glen site would be sold for £1,250,000. It is this figure that has reduced and produced the funding shortfall.

Annual repayments (principal plus interest) on the borrowing are expected to be around £195,000 a year.

The news comes a day before an open meeting to discuss the project is being held at Windsor House (see below)

York’s mental health strategy launched

York’s Health and Wellbeing Board has launched its new mental health strategy with a focus on every single resident enjoying the best possible emotional and mental health and wellbeing throughout the course of their life.

A newly formed mental health partnership will lead and co-ordinate the delivery of the strategy. The new partnership will be chaired by Tim Madgwick, who retired as Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police last year.

The strategy highlights that people with mental health conditions have a lower life expectancy and poorer physical health outcomes than those that do not.

The main focus of the strategy is to get better at spotting the early signs of mental ill health and to intervene earlier. It also looks at increasing individual and community resilience to reduce social isolation.

The other priorities are to:

  • focus on recovery and rehabilitation
  • improve services for mothers, children and young people
  • ensure that York becomes a suicide safer city
  • ensure that York is both a mental health and dementia friendly environment
  • improve services for those with learning disabilities.

The strategy expands on the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2018-2023, of which mental health is a key priority.
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Citizens Advice York:  Service extended for a further 12 months

Cllr Carol Runciman (Centre), Simon Topham of Citizens Advice York (right) and John Short, Chair of Citizens Advice York (left)

In an Executive Member Decision session held today, Cllr Carol Runciman, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Financial Inclusion, has granted a 12-month extension to continue services run by Citizens Advice York.

Over recent months, a series of discussions have taken place between the York Liberal Democrats and Citizens Advice York to guarantee the long term sustainable future of the service.

In regular conversations with Citizens Advice York, it has been repeatedly highlighted that the service needed to recruit and train more volunteer advisors.   However, since the beginning of 2018, Citizens Advice York has reported that the training of volunteers is progressing well.  Once volunteers are trained, the service will be able to increase its capacity and once again, apply for further funding from the Financial Inclusion fund.

During the 12 month period, Citizens Advice York will conduct an internal review on the performance of their service.  The Liberal Democrats will be working closely with Citizens Advice York during this period to ensure sustainable and effective future service provision is in place.

Cllr Carol Runciman, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Financial Inclusion, said:

“As the Executive Member with responsibility for financial inclusion, I am in regular contact with Citizens Advice York and together, we are both working to maintain service provision for the residents of York.”

“Money is not the only solution here and currently, Citizens Advice York is prioritising the training of volunteer advisors to improve the service.  At this moment in time, Citizens Advice York has been granted a 12 month service extension to the service; so that they can review the service after a year has passed.”

“Once more advisors are trained and Citizens Advice York are happy with their own performance, the York Liberal Democrats will support Citizens Advice to once again apply for the Financial Inclusion Fund and deliver a sustainable service for many years to come.”

Staffing crisis hits social work teams in York

The York Council is finding it difficult to recruit qualified staff for its Safeguarding Social Work teams. The budget for the service is nearly £150,000 overspent mainly because of having to employ agency staff.

Those affected work on Court/Child Protection issues. These teams intervene and work with very complex, high risk cases where child abuse has either been substantiated or there is the assessed likelihood that children may suffer significant harm and therefore require protection.

The Council is saying that “It is a highly pressured environment, with very tight and rigid court deadlines that have to be met as well as ongoing crises in relation to children subject to child protection plans which also require a timely response”.

There are currently 7 vacancies in the 16-person team.

As well as making “Golden Hello” payments of £2500 for new recruits, the Council also wants to introduce a “Golden Handcuff” annual payment to existing staff of a similar amount.

Hopefully the later will not fall foul of the Councils new modern slavery policies (right)

Adopting an ethical care charter in York

Councillors will be asked to adopt the ‘ethical care charter’ for home care workers across the city when they meet next week.

On Thursday 15 March, the council’s Executive will discuss the option to adopt the charter which seeks to establish a minimum baseline for the safety, quality and dignity of care.

The charter was developed and published by UNISON after they conducted a national survey of homecare workers in 2012 and has three stages. In July 2017 a motion was approved at full council asking officers to look at the implications and take a report to Executive.

At the meeting councillors will be asked to agree to adopt stages one and two of the charter which will include:

  • The time allocated to visits will match the needs of clients
  • Visits being scheduled so that homecare workers are not forced to rush their time with clients
  • Clients being allocated the same homecare workers wherever possible
  • Zero hours contracts not being used as the only option. Providers offering a range of contract options to staff to ensure flexible employment options for care workers.
  • Homecare workers being regularly trained and given the chance to regularly share best practice with co-workers and limit their isolation.

Councillors will also be asked to agree for further work to be undertaken to assess the financial implications of adopting stage three which is for all staff to be paid at Foundation living wage and providers adopting occupational sickness pay schemes, with a report to be taken back at a later date.

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for adult social care and health said: “We recognise the vital job that homecare workers across the city to support our residents. These changes look to help them and support the recruitment and retention of care staff.

“We’ve been working with providers closely on these plans. We know in York that our residents receive a standard of homecare that is well above the national average, these proposals look to promote high quality care services and further increase the standard of care in York.”

£1.4 million Lincoln Court upgrade announced

The Council will spend £1.4 million upgrading the Lincoln Court sheltered housing scheme on Ascot Way next year.

Lincoln Court

A report be considered next week recommends modernising the existing 26 flats while building an extension which will provide an additional 8 units designed for dementia sufferers.

The extension will also provide a base for mobile care workers.This new build feature had not previously been revealed in the Councils plans.

The 4 existing “bedsits” will be converted into flats.

There is currently a shortfall, against demand, of over 1000 units of sheltered accommodation in the City.

The major upgrade will provide:

  1. 8 new, one bed apartments which will be dementia friendly.
  2. Conversion of 4 existing bedsits into 4 one bed apartments.
  3. A new and improved entrance lobby, communal facilities including a community lounge, WC, assisted bathing, hairdressing/therapy room, buggy store, office/s for care and other staff, gardens and improved car parking.

Planned investment and maintenance plans already included:

  • the installation of a new communal boiler and plant room;
  • the modernisation of individual flats to include new kitchen, bathroom, heating and wiring;
  • new front doors and windows;
  • a new door entry system
  • roof works;
  • external & internal decoration;
  • some high level external works to rainwater goods and asbestos soffits.

It is expected that, as soon as the budget for the scheme is agreed, existing tenants will be fully consulted on the implications of the building plans. With the adjacent Windsor House set to be demolished at the same time, some inconvenience is inevitable.

Residents are likely to question whether the inclusion of an office base on the site – together with the changes brought by the erection of the disability centre next door – might have a significant impact on traffic and parking issues in the area.

Residents and staff at Morrell House to be consulted on closure plans

Morrell House, Burton Stone Lane

Residents, their relatives and staff at one of City of York Council’s older people’s homes – Morrell House – are being consulted on the option to close the home, as part of plans to modernise accommodation for older people in the city.

The plans look to address the needs of York’s growing and ageing older population, by providing modern facilities which allow high quality care and quality of life, but also increasing the quantity of accommodation available.

It also aims to make the best use of the city’s existing extra care housing, making it more accessible for people with higher care needs by increasing the support available at each venue and by replacing out-dated older people’s homes, with more modern accommodation.

Significant progress is being made to deliver over 900 new units of accommodation with care for older people across York with both private and public sector investment.

This progress includes the £4m extension of Glen Lodge, providing 27 new homes, which was completed last year and work being done to build a care home at the Burnholme health and wellbeing campus.

This and plans to extend Marjorie Waite Court with 33 new homes are just some of the schemes taking place across the city which will bring much needed improved accommodation for older people to the city.

Martin Farran, corporate director for health, housing and adult social care at City of York Council, said:

“Whilst residents, their families and staff at Morrell House are rightly proud of their home, we recognise that there is a need for more modern accommodation for older people.

“We understand that this consultation process can be an unsettling one and will be working closely with the residents, their families and staff to make sure they have the support and advice they need.

“Our focus remains on supporting our residents. The actions we take now will ensure that they – and future generations – will have the best possible quality of life, with greater access to modern accommodation across the city.”

Residents, their relatives and staff have already been informed of the proposals. Over the next six weeks residents and relatives will be consulted on their views and any preferences they have about where they would like to move to should the home be closed.

The results of the consultations will be presented to the Executive on Thursday 26 April.

Check on vulnerable neighbours this winter

With cold weather forecast over the coming days City of York Council is reminding residents to stay well this winter and to look out for vulnerable neighbours and relatives.

Winter is here. The cold weather can have a significant impact on people’s health and with the cold and icy conditions vulnerable people can tend to stay at home.

Top tips for supporting older vulnerable neighbours, friends and relatives, include:

  • Make sure they’re warm enough – the temperature in  their home should be at least 18oC, particularly if they are not mobile, have long term illness or are 65 or over, and they may need to  wear several layers of clothes to stay warm.
  • Make sure they are well stocked up on food, drink and medicines they may need.
  • Try to make sure they have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day.
  • Information about social groups and activities for older people is available through www.connecttosupport.org/york  or by contacting Age UK York on 01904 627995.
  • For more information about Age UK’s national Spread the Warmth campaign visit www.ageuk.org.uk or see www.york.gov.uk/winter   more information about keeping well during winter

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Oakhaven replacement plans on display this week

Last year, care company Ashley House won a contract from the City of York Council to design, build and operate an “extra care” sheltered housing complex at the site of the old Oakhaven care home on Acomb Road.

Oakhaven site

No planning application for the project – which is running over a year behind schedule – has yet been submitted but according to the Councils web site initial plans are being unveiled this week.

Drawings will be on display at Acomb Explore Library on Front Street from Thursday March 1 to Thursday, March 8.

A public event is also being on Thursday, March 1 from 4pm to 7pm at York Medical Group, 199 Acomb Road, York.

The site has been hit by controversy in recent years with the adjacent police station being threatened with closure. It was initially thought that that site would also be incorporated into the new development.

In addition, the nearby Carlton Tavern pub narrowly avoided an attempt to replace it with a new care home. That controversy is still ongoing.

The expectation for residents will be that a holistic plan for the whole neighbourhood will emerge quickly.

Oakhaven was closed by City of York Council in late 2015, as part of its plan to close authority-run homes which it says are out-of-date, and not up to modern standards.

The new “state-of-the-art” development will provide 56 apartments for older people, and will include a lounge and dining room serving hot meals.

People can also view the proposals or comment online by clicking here or via email  to OakhavenDevelopment@york.gov.uk.

The consultation is only open until 8th March