Latest poverty figures hide York shame

There has been some smug comments from  some politicians fallowing the release of the latest government figures on poverty levels. Known as the index of multiple deprivation, the figures give a clue to which are the most well off neighbourhoods and which the worst.

Government poverty figures

Overall York has fared well over the last couple of years. The York Outer constituency is now ranked 530 out of 533; the same as it was 4 years ago.

York Central has improved its relative position from 339 to 364. (High number is good). This largely reflects the “gentrification” of parts of the City and relatively high employment rates..

However, the overall figures disguise the level of poverty that is concentrated in some parts of the City.

The worst ranked neighbourhood (LSOA E01013443) is the Kingsway West area which includes Windsor Garth.

Kingsway neighbourhood. Officially the most deprived in York

It is the only York neighbourhood to rank in the bottom 20% in the country.

It fares particularly badly on health, employment and income indicators.

This neighbourhood is in the Westfield ward which itself is rated as the most deprived in the City.

The revelation should come as no surprise to the York Council. Campaigners have been pointing out for the last three or four years that the area was not only being neglected but that key services were being run down.

Kingsway ranks poorly on 8 individual indices and is the worst overall. Scores are out of 10 with low being poor.

The local multi user games area (MUGA) was recently closed down and a promised replacement has not materialised. Nearby the Lowfield’s playing field is also being built on while a bowling green has also been lost. The residents association folded a few years ago following complaints that its views were ignored by Councillors.

The neighbourhood does have a disproportionately high number of older people. This can drive down average income levels. It is also true to say that residents are mostly philosophical about their neighbourhood which still retains a good sense of community pride

However, it high time that the authorities – both local and national – made an commitment to regenerate public services for Kingsway residents.

Poll on older peoples accommodation in York

Residents across York are being asked for their views on how and where they, or their loved ones, want to live and be supported as they age in a city wide consultation this month.

City of York Council wants to hear the views of all residents, regardless of their age, about the different accommodation options and what can be done to support life long independence.

The survey forms part of York’s Older People’s Accommodation Programme which aims to ensure that older people’s accommodation needs are met now and in the future.

The survey is available online now at https://www.york.gov.uk/consultations and in paper copy Explore Library Learning Centres. The council will also be running consultations directly with key stakeholders and community groups. The closing date for the consultation is 11 August.

The Tackling Fuel Poverty scheme received £5.7 million from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.S

Council Tax support events for older people

Older residents are being encouraged to attend a drop-in event in York to find out if they could be eligible for Council Tax Support and other benefits too.

The events are being organised by City of York Council alongside Age UK York, Older Citizen’s Advocacy York, Tang Hall Big Local, the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust and other Advice York partners, and will take place on:

  • Wednesday 12 June, 12 to 3pm at Tang Hall Community Centre
  • Monday 24 June,12 to 3pm at New Earswick Folk Hall

To attend the events simply pop by for some refreshments and a chat. Resident’s will also need to bring along details of their income and fuel bills to check how much they can save. Find out more about Council Tax Support at www.york.gov.uk/counciltax

Residents can also visit drop-ins and community hubs through out the city for information and support, to find out more visit: www.york.gov.uk/BenefitsAdvice

York Council tries to clear up £6 million contract confusion

We reported in February that the York Council had let social care contracts worth over £1.3 million pa. We questioned then whether the contracts had been properly advertised, whether they represented value for money and how their success would be monitored.

In a Freedom of Information response, the Council has sought to justify its actions

The number of tenders – advertised through Yortender & OJEU – received for each contract was low.

The details are:

  1. Supported Lodgings – 1 tender. Awarded to Safe and Sound Homes (SASH).
  2. Family Support – 4 tenders. Awarded to The Cyrenians (Community Links) This contract is worth £480,000 over 3 years
  3. Older People and People with Physical Disabilities – 3 tenders. Awarded to Yorkshire Housing Ltd.

In total the tenders are worth £6.6 million over a period of 5 years.

The Council has declined to indicate the value of the individual tenders it received.

All contracts were awarded on 15th September 2016 according to the contracts register. However, the decisions were only published in February 2017 (after the contracts had started). The Council itself says that the contracts were awarded, under delegated authority, by Council officials. The was no member involvement after the Executive meeting on 28th April 2016. The Council claims the awards were decided on the following dates

a) 28th Aug 2016

b) 6th January 2017

c) 15th September 2016

It declines to say why the decisions were not recorded in the decisions register until as long as 4 months later.

It has also declined to make available the minutes of any bodies which considered the contracts nor will it say to which publicly accountable body the outputs against target will be reported.

The required outcomes, for two of the contracts, are expressed only in very general terms. They are more specific for the family support contract (see below)

Contrary to the impression given at the Council’s Executive meeting, the potential service providers were apparently not required to provide their “vision” for the service and its customers.

Free cycling taster session at Energise aimed at older people

 

The council is inviting York’s older residents to saddle up and try cycling at a series of free taster sessions and courses that will help people new to cycling to build their confidence and skills.

Taster sessions will be on offer at the off-road York Sport cycle track on 23 March from 10am-12 noon and 28 March from 1-3pm.

Courses that aim to help those new to cycling to ride with confidence will be on offer across the city, taking place on:

  • · 6, 13, 20, 27 April at Energise from 3-5pm
  • · 5, 12, 19 and 26 April at York Sport cycle track from 1-3pm
  • · 6, 13, 20, 27 April at Rowntree Park from 10.30am – 12.30pm
  • · 5, 12, 19 and 26 April at Burnholme form 10.30am – 12.30pm (indoors)

Regular cycling has been proven to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and strokes. It can also help to also enhance mental wellbeing. It’s also a great way to keep weight under control and contributes to the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise for adults.

Executive member for transport and planning, Cllr Ian Gillies, said: “Cycling is a great way to stay fit and healthy as it is a low impact activity where participants can do as much or as little as they feel comfortable with. It also offers a good low cost transport method for getting in and around the city.”

To book a place on a session or course email fiona.barker@york.gov.uk or call 01904 553377. Free cycle hire is also available on a first come first served basis for people who need a bike. For more information visit www.itravelyork.info

Young people make hairdressing salon a cut above

Older people haircutThe tenants of Honeysuckle House, a City of York Council Sheltered Accommodation Scheme in Dringhouses, will soon be able to enjoy getting their hair done in style as the Enable scheme is undertaking a makeover of the on-site hairdressing salon.

Enable is a collaboration between the council’s 60+ Housing Specialist Service and SASH, a supported lodging scheme for young people who have experienced homelessness. It brings together young people who would like to give something back to their communities and older people who may need a hand with gardening and decorating.

The hairdressing salon at the Sheltered Accommodation Scheme is an important resource, much loved and used regularly by the tenants. Honeysuckle House approached the Enable scheme as the facility is starting to look tired and would benefit from a spruce up and this week four 4 young people, supported by staff, will be wallpapering, painting, gardening and generally sprucing the place up!

Enable has now been running for nearly 2 years and has carried out numerous community projects to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of older people in York. The young people get a taste of volunteering whilst learning skills they will need when they move into their own homes in the future.
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Residents urged to support vulnerable friends and neighbours over the festive period

City of York Council is urging residents to think of vulnerable friends and neighbours over the festive period.

Casserole_Christmas_Campaign_HeaderIt’s estimated that over half a million older people in the UK spend Christmas Day alone*.

Councillor Carol Runciman, Cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Health, City of York Council, said: “For many people, Christmas and the festive break is a chance to spend time with family and friends. But for hundreds of older and vulnerable people across the York area the holiday period can be a lonely and difficult time.

“I would urge people to pop in to check on vulnerable neighbours or make time for elderly relatives to make sure they have a warm, healthy and happy Christmas. No one should be lonely over the festive period.”

Top tips for supporting older or 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.
  • Try to make sure they have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day.
  • Check that they have enough medication to last the period that their GP practice is closed, so they don’t risk getting ill if they run out.
  • Information about social groups and activities for older people is available through www.connecttosupport.org/york or through contacting Age UK York on 01904 627995.

Christmas can also be a particularly difficult time for people living with dementia. For information about how to support people with dementia over the festive period, visit http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/ and search for ‘tips for Christmas support’.

For more information about Age UK’s national Spread the Warmth campaign visit http://www.ageuk.org.uk/ or see http://www.york.gov.uk/for more information about keeping well during winter.

*figures based on research carried out by Age UK in 2011

First gliding and kung fu sessions to be offered at York’s biggest 50+ Games

kungfu pensionersKung fu, gliding, kick boxing, weight lifting and fencing taster sessions are being offered for the first time at this year’s 50+ Games which run from Saturday 26 September to Sunday 4 October.

The Eng-AGE 50+ Games is a nine-day event organised by City of York Council in partnership with local sports clubs and coaches and runs alongside the popular York 50+ Festival. It offers an exciting, mainly free programme of taster sessions to introduce those aged over 50 to the broad range of health and fitness activities which take place regularly in venues throughout York.

This year’s record programme boasts 41 sessions and involves 17 different sports clubs. Their offer includes cardio tennis, swimming, walking, running, boxing, walking football and tennis, whilst residents who prefer gentler activity can enjoy bowls, yoga, pilates and seated tai chi. Also on offer is a motorised gliding experience at York Gliding Centre in Rufforth.

All abilities and fitness levels are welcome and the ethos of the Games is as much about meeting new people and taking part than winning!

Councillor Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism said: “The Eng-AGE 50+ Games offers residents a fantastic chance to try new sport in a friendly setting and discover where they can continue to take part throughout the year.

“All adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week – just 30 minutes a day will hit that target. Regular sport and activity benefits physical and mental wellbeing, and for older people it’s important to help balance and co-ordination, bone strength and flexibility to maintain a full and independent life.”

The full programme can be found at www.york.gov.uk/engage and leaflets can be picked up from libraries.

For further information contact Megan Hale, Older Peoples Physical Activity Officer, on 01904 553377, email megan.hale@york.gov.uk

York Council supine, confused and incompetent – Auditors report into York Older Peoples care plan

It is generally accepted that the greatest ongoing financial challenge faced by local authorities is the additional costs which they will face for looking after increasing numbers of elderly people in society.

Two reports into residential care provision in the City have been published over the last 24 hours.

An auditors report  lifts the lid on the collapse of the last Labour Council administrations plans to establish two super care homes in the City.

The second report, which will be considered by the Council’s Executive on 30th July, tries to identify a “way forward” for ailing social care services in the City.

The detailed auditors report from Mazars simply confirms what most interested residents had already worked out.

Extract from auditors report click to enlarge

Extract from auditors report click to enlarge

 The Council had neither the skills nor processes available to manage a complex £30 million project which was hamstrung by political posturing from 2011.

 Initially time was lost as Labour Councillors sought to appease trades union interests, while later the three responsible Cabinet members (Simpson-Laing, Cunningham-Cross and Alexander all of whom lost their seats in the May elections) failed for 3 years to get to grips with a project that had effectively stalled.

As we pointed out at the time, refusing to answer questions at Council meetings on the project, on spurious grounds of commercial confidentiality, was simply a smokescreen for the indecision which heralded the complete collapse of the project.

Reports had been presented to various Cabinet meetings but the auditors confirm  but “There is no evidence of discussion in these key areas at Cabinet”.

In total over £350,000 of taxpayers money was wasted on the project with the subsequent delay also costing taxpayers around £300,000 a year in subsidies to keep existing arrangements in place

Mazars audit report concludes with comments on the new business plan. They say

“The operational and financial modelling aspects have not been finalised and this is an area which requires further development”.

Despite this comment, a second report will be presented to next week’s Executive meeting which proposes a revised plan.

There are worrying omissions from the report.  It is muddled and makes the mistake of not setting out, early on, basic demand assumptions. It is questionable whether many of the criticisms in the audit report have been heeded (not least the need to consider all options at every stage in the process)

 324 pages of documentation have been sent to Executive members to consider covering a wide range of important topics. The agenda is far too long to be considered at one sitting. To avoid the mistakes of the past, new Councillors would be wise to defer some items to a special meeting.

Few issues are more worthy of reflection that the Older Persons Homes strategy.

The new approach seeks to replace a project which became a major embarrassment for the Council.

  • It concerns the most vulnerable members of society.
  • It is potentially hugely expensive.
  • The “business case” implies additional borrowing. (The Council needs to reduce its debts not increase them).

The business case claims there will be ongoing revenue savings. Maybe, but the bigger picture needs to be addressed (including increasing expenditure on non residential care services).

The report implies that some existing frail residents may have to move home twice within a couple of years?

The full capital costs and revenue consequences (divided between debt financing and other costs) should be tabulated. At the moment only top level revenue consequences are listed.

The programme management costs are ridiculously high

The Lowfields issue

Lowfields Site

Lowfields Site

Redevelopment of the built footprint of the Lowfields site will be developer led but must be aimed at older people (not starter homes as the officer report suggests).

The site is ideally located near to the kind of essential amenities that older people require. Refocusing on an elderly care village approach will also minimise traffic issues in the Lowfields area.

The layout should include some “downsizing” homes aimed at over 50’s (thereby releasing family accommodation elsewhere) but otherwise needs to provide a mix of styles and tenures (flats, bungalows and sheltered accommodation with some communal facilities). The setting should be respected with the former school playing fields being conserved and enhanced.

One of the weaknesses of the officer report – which seems to rest on a misplaced loyalty to the grand designs of the previous regime – is that provision for older people on the west of the city is given little consideration.

Acomb residents want to remain to a setting with which they are familiar and where most of the friends and family will probably continue to live.

A cautious and discursive approach is required from the Council new Executive