Liberal Democrat Councillors successfully proposed, at least nights budget committee meeting, that funding for the garden maintenance scheme be restored.
A Tory Councillor – who subsequently resigned from his executive position – had proposed a £46,000 cut in the budget for the service.
It meant that nearly 100 elderly and disable residents – who are physically unable to tend their gardens – would have lost Council assistance.
Now the cut has been restored.
The funding will come from the Housing Revenue Account the income for which comes from Council tenants rents.
The housing account is expected to have a £6 million surplus during the next financial year.
Elsewhere in the Councils investment capital) budget, now includes a provision for improvements to Council garage areas.
Many garage sites need to have their forecourts resurfaced, boundary fences repaired and undergrowth removed.
Proposal for Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children
A report is being discussed next week which is expected to result in confirmation of plans to close the Windsor House elderly persons home on Ascot Way. The proposal was first discussed in September and now Council officials are reporting back on the discussions that they have had with residents, their relations and staff.
5 residents have recently moved out leaving 17 to find new homes. The Council says that there is currently a good supply of alternative accommodation options available including Glen Lodge.
The care home has 33 staff in total, the majority of who work part time.
The main criticism of the closure relates to timing. Promised modern elderly care facilities on the west of the City will not be available for 2 or 3 years.
Considerable concerns have been expressed by residents of the adjacent Lincoln Court sheltered development.
These self-contained flats which include some communal space, are not included in the closure plans. However, the building has been allowed to deteriorate recently. Window frames are rotten, while an ongoing criticism has been about poor management of parking facilities. Some boundary hedges weren’t cut in the summer, effectively isolated the elderly residents from the rest of the community.
York must do better in the way that it treats its tenants at Lincoln Court. They need to be given
assurances about the future of their flats as well as a date when modernisation works will commence.
The future of the Windsor Garth site
The Council has unveiled what seems to be a caring and imagination use for the Ascot Way site when the existing buildings have been demolished.
The report describes a possible state of the art facility for disabled children
“Should Windsor House close, the site could be redeveloped as the location for the Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children and their Families, for housing or sold.”
Just as society doesn’t always treat the elderly as well as it should, the same could be said of people with disabilities. The principle of the proposed facility would therefore be welcome.
However, there are two significant issues to be addressed before any further development is considered in this neighbourhood.
Traffic congestion and lack of off street parking are now major problems.
They have worsened since 66 additional homes were built on the Hob Stones site and were exacerbated by the Council decision not to let the garages in Newbury Avenue pending the redevelopment of that site. The two issues are linked with inadequate “on street” parking space making access difficult even for the bus service.
There have been calls to introduce a “one way” system or even reopen the second access from Kingsway West.
Whatever the solution may be, one must be found before any development takes place which could further increase vehicle movements in the area.
The York Council has gone through today with its threat to cease the hedge and grass cutting service provided for many elderly and disabled people in the City
As we forecast, the Council is hoping to save £46,000 a year expenditure on its housing revenue account (HRA).
The HRA currently has a surplus of over £23 million and made £4.3m profit last year
The garden assistance scheme is available to tenants aged over 70 who are physically unable to cut the hedges and grass in their gardens.
The hedges are cut twice a year and the grass on 7 occasions.
409 tenants received the service in 2016.
365 received the service in 2017 following a tightening of the criteria for qualification.
It is thought that the new scheme involving use of the “handyman service” could cater for up to 306 elderly people.
The rest would not be given help. A waiting list might have to be established.
The service will in future be means rested.
The cut has been agreed by a Tory Councillor without any consultation with local Resident Associations or the citywide Tenants Federation.
Over a year ago, the York Council notified elderly and disabled people that it planned to scrap its garden assistance scheme. The scheme employs contractors to cut the hedges and lawns of elderly and disabled residents.
The plans produced a barrage of complaints and the threat was withdrawn
Now a report has revealed that a Tory Councillor is again planning to slash entitlement to the service. About 50% of current users will be told to make other arrangements.
It appears that some people aged over 70 with severe disabilities may continue to get the service from an estate “handymen”, but many others will miss out.
The cuts are expected to save the Council around £40,000 a year.
The Tories claim that this cut is essential to balance the books. They forget that last week a review of the Housing Revenue Account revealed that it will have an average credit balance of over £30 million in each of the next 30 years.
This partly arises from the expected 1% per annum real terms increases in rents.
As well as kicking existing users off the programme, the report talks of establishing a “waiting list” for people who need the service.
The Councillor responsible for the proposal is Sam Lyle a youth who recently graduated from University. Quite what he knows about the challenges faced by many older residents will no doubt become clear over the next few days.
Fortunately, as we have reported before (left), there are a lot of caring students at the York and St Johns Universities who hopefully will prove to be part of the solution to this shabby proposal
In the meantime, the Council’s website is down. Anyone trying to Email Councillors is referred to a web page apparently containing a list of contact telephone numbers. http://democracy.york.gov.uk/mgCommitteeMailingList.aspx?ID=0
That web page is also currently unavailable!
Plans to create a Safe Place Scheme for disabled people, including people with mental health issues are taking shape.
The nationally recognised Safe Place Scheme gives people a short term ‘Safe Place’ to go if they are feeling threatened when out and about in their local area.
It enables public spaces (such as shops, cafés and libraries) to be designated as safe and supportive places where disabled people can go if they are having difficulty, feel lost or frightened.
York Independent Living Network (YILN) – a local disabled people-led organisation – has received funding from the City of York Council to set up a steering group with representation from community organisations and local authorities to take the scheme forward in York.
The steering group will develop resources for the Safe Place Scheme, recruit venues to become Safe Places and make recommendations to the council and the police to help maintain the Safe Place Scheme.
A new phase of recruiting foster carers in York is rolling out this month with an emphasis on the need for foster placements for severely disabled children.
City of York Council has vacancies for short breaks carers to help children and young people with disabilities, as part of a regular and supported package of care for them and their family.
The breaks can be anything from a few hours to a few days or up to a month, for children with a permanent and substantial impairment or illness. Carers are supported to involve the children to take part in family or local activities, make new friends and gain independence. This gives families a break from caring plus the reassurance that their child is safe and enjoying positive new experiences.
People with room in their home, hearts and schedule for these special breaks are trained, fully supported and equipped throughout. Many decide to offer short breaks after having had experience of caring for their own or other children with a disability or having had a professional role in education, social care or nursing.
These contract foster carers are paid to provide a series of short breaks during the year for up to seven different children and are allocated time off to recharge their own batteries, as part of their remuneration package.
The council’s Short Breaks team has immediate vacancies and is eager to hear from committed individuals who believe that they have the spare time, energy and commitment to offer short breaks fostering in their own home.
The council’s Fostering Team is also keen to recruit people interested in offering a caring and loving home for children who are looked after away from their families. Short time fostering – up to 12 months – and longer term fostering – until young people reach adulthood – is needed, especially for those who can care for teenagers and young people with additional needs. The remuneration, training and support is substantial.
Jo Clarke, a York foster carer and forensic psychologist, said: “I started my fostering career when my daughter was six. We provided short breaks to a six-year-old girl who had special needs and was living at home with her family. It felt amazing to be able to offer this support to the family who might otherwise have had to consider residential care for their daughter. Bizarrely sometimes the more challenging it was, the more worthwhile it felt, because you realised how much the family needed a break. It was also hugely beneficial to my daughter, who has grown up with a real understanding of disability and a much stronger appreciation of what she’s got. This was such an overwhelmingly positive experience, that we decided to take another step and now we are full time, permanent foster carers to a young man who came to us four years ago, when he was eight. My daughter says fostering has been the best thing ever and has shaped who she has become. For me, I can’t imagine any job more rewarding.”
Council tenants entitled to free garden maintenance have been angered by delays in cutting back overgrown vegetation this summer.
The Councils housing department offers a free gardening service for elderly or disabled council tenants who have no-one else to help, cutting grass five times and hedges twice between April and October (weather permitting).
The scheme has run for many years but periodically it seems to fall behind schedule causing substantial inconvenience for some of its vulnerable clients.
This summer we have seen one example where an elderly tenant, living in the Foxwood area, complained on five occasions that her garden was becoming overgrown and unsafe.
Following an admission to hospital, upon her return home a few weeks later, she found that the access path was overgrown – a potential hazard for the less nimble – while weeds had started to overgrow the windows.
Local councillors have pledged to follow up individual complaints but it seems that basic contract supervision arrangements – and complaint handling systems – have badly let down several vulnerable residents this summer
NB. The garden maintenance contract was awarded to Oakdale NE Ltd in June 2014. The two year contract was estimated to be worth £140,000.
A disabled resident is still waiting for a disabled parking space to be marked out, on a parking area in Spurr Court in the Foxwood estate, 6 months after requesting assistance
There is space for about 8 vehicles in the parking area but they quickly fill up at weekends.
This leaves a local disabled person having, on occasions, to walk over 1/2 mile from the nearest available parking spot
Liberal Democrat candidates in the Council elections on May 7th have agreed to ask for a “disabled only” bay to be marked out as a matter of priority.
The affected resident lives in one of 3 bungalows in the area which does not have a carriageway either to the front or rear of the property.