Council bosses have been urged to keep care funds flowing for thousands of vulnerable elderly people - after they backed spending £2.5m on recruiting a new volunteer army.

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Norfolk County Council hopes to find helpers to knock on doors and tell people aged over 75 about the care services they are entitled to receive.

This will include helping people access lunch clubs, befriending services, short breaks and welfare benefit advice.

The Conservative cabinet yesterday supported the five-year scheme, which will be funded from sources including cash clawed back from the failed Icelandic bank investments. The project will receive £500,000 a year.

It is part of a £5m Strong and Well fund, with a further £2.5m also available for preventative service over the next five years.

Care officials say prevention work can help save money in the long-term as it aims to spot the signs of illness before people need more expensive treatment.

But Unison has warned frontline staff, are effectively being replaced by volunteers, as the council’s adult social care faces further cuts in the 12 months ahead. They also questioned why 75 was the cut off point, when the aim was to spot the signs of illness early.

Phil Wells, Age UK Norwich chief executive, said he welcomed any money for preventative care.

He said: “Everyone is talking up prevention but this is the first really substantial commitment to achieve something. It’s very welcome in that sense.

“It’s a useful start but I hope the county councillors don’t think they have solved the problem by doing this. It gives us a start to hopefully do something which will help with this.”

Age UK Norwich and Age UK Norfolk, backed by the EDP, campaigned against county council proposals to reduce preventative care service funding by £11m between 2012 and 2014.

The council says it will spend in the region of £30m on prevention work during 2013/14.

The Strong and Well volunteer project will aim to make 7,000 visits per year. Each visit costs around £35.

It is predicted to cost £500 to train a volunteer.

Of the £500,000 available each year, £150,000 will be spent on volunteer training and support, £260,000 on visits and £90,000 on coordinating, marketing and recruiting for the scheme, plus overheads.

The council says it hopes to work with voluntary groups.

Shelagh Gurney, cabinet member for adult social services, said: “Due to Norfolk’s growing ageing population it is inevitable that age-driven demand for care services is going to increase. This will certainly impact on how much of the county council’s budget is spent on older people.

“However, this money will allow people to maintain their independence for as long as possible ultimately improving individual well-being, encourage communities to help each other, as well as prevent people from prematurely entering the social care system.”

But Jonathan Dunning, Unison branch secretary at Norfolk County Council, said staff were disappointed short-term projects were being put before investment in ongoing services.

He said: “We believe this represents a head in the sand approach to what is really happening on the frontline as services delivered by qualified or experienced staff are reorganised and restructured out of existence having a direct impact on the most vulnerable people.

“The amount of new money being invested in the Strong and Well project while cutting the adult social care assessment and care management service seems like a classic case of spin over substance.”

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk Rural Community Council, said their projects included village agents and good neighbour schemes to ensure vulnerable people were well-supported within their communities.

He said the five village agents were covering areas around North Walsham, Cromer and Aylsham.

Mr Clemo said: “It’s very positive there’s added investment in this preventative action. We know Norfolk has got an ageing population. From a rural advocacy perspective, it’s ageing faster in rural areas.

“This is an area that needs work doing. It’s welcome, it’s appreciated and this can build a real partnership approach rather than duplicating.”

11 comments

  • Get after those grey votes! While NCC's "helpers" are knocking on doors, will they be signing-up people for proxy votes at the same time? It's what DC would want you know - every little counts when it comes to votes. I say, one has often pondered about privately-run care homes in Norfolk, where all residents have a postal vote and make use of it election after election without exception. Perhaps the staff help them to complete the postal ballot forms the right way.

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    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • 150,000 for training of volunteers at 500 pound each. that means they have allowed for a possible 300 volunteers. 300 volunteers then have to make 7000 visits a year thats 134 visits a week. why not recruit 6 people at 25,000 pounds a year (or less if hiring one of Chloe Smiths youngsters), this works out to about 22 visits per person per week. That way you dont have to pay as much on co ordinating, recruitment etc etc plus saving a good chunk of the 150,000 pound allocated for volunteer training over the following four years.

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    norfolkandgood

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • Stupid beyond belief. Volunteers and charity can be used and dispensed with favour or partisanship. That is why we replaced them with something better. If there is this money to spare use it to cut the council tax bill of the over 70s so they have a bit more in their pockets or improve public transport for those who can no longer drive.Patronising do gooders-spare us. A 70 year old born in 1943 was possibly a Ted or a Mod or maybe even a pot head hippy or at the cutting edge of IT development. Some fool coming round to tell them about lunch clubs-what next, everyone singing Its a Long Way to Tipperary? Someone at county hall needs to get their thumb out of their b*m and their mind out of neutral.

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • It may sound laudable, but is is electioneering at its worst. And there will be more to come before May.

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    Nemesis

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • Why a cut off age of 75 and how will the volunteers know where to find them? Guess the criminal fraternity will jump on the bandwagon and gain access to the vulnerable in the guise of being NCC VOLUNTEER personal So what is wrong with the Citizens Advice services ? Will the volunteers all have EXTENDED CRB CHECKS at £120 a time? Who will train the volunteers and at what salary? Then will be the appointment of another quango portfolio cabinet membership committee traveling costs meeting !! Identity cards headed note paper the mind boggles What happens if the budget overruns in any one year Never mind this farce will never apply to me as I live alone am 70 years old and live on a pension of £145 per week With a portfolio cabinet of a windowbox an electric fire and a cat

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    Claire Voyant

    Wednesday, January 30, 2013

  • Not a very cheap electioneering stunt. £0.5 million a year to run a volunteer army instead of how much to invest in a properly resouced department. Miss Trust was on BBC evening news just now talking about childcare cuts, presumably to be achieved by using another volunteer army.

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    Police Commissioner ???

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • £2.5million for volunteers. Volunteers work for nothing, dummies. I certainly do. And there is no point in chucking Two and a Half Million pounds at yet another silly County Council pie in the sky flight of fancy. If people want to volunteer they will, if they don't they won't. I have to say if I was approached by some person from NCC who was being paid out of that £2.5 million I would tell them to clear off. In fact I would stop the volunteering that I am doing at present rather than get caught up in that. If communities cant work out how to help themselves having the NCC interfering wont make any difference. Put the money into something that will actually make a difference like not making people redundant.

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    Electra

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • How can this expenditure be justified when so much has already been cut?

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    Peter Watson

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • We already have a huge amount of information available to point people in the right direction for disabled and elderly services. What we don't have is practical and useful help! As a volunteer myself I am appalled at the cost! Which is going where exactly? As Volunteers we already know how hard it is to recruit more of this type of help and to have some fancy scheme from afar will do nothing for these underlying problems. It will also make us feel even more useless when we spend so much time raising a few pounds for our cause just to discover a few million being wasted on this escapade.

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    Nick

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • Trying hard to work up some positive messages before the May elections are we? Whilst staff is cut down to the bone, over worked and faced with wage freezes, Tory want to waste money on a survey? cause the action is asking people to realise what's on offer, not helping them perse . I'm with Electra, the money should be spent on actual services rather than trying to placate voters before the council election. Not unlike road repairs and stories about jobs that might or might not materialise in years to come, anybody mentioned HS2?, these sobs are election propaganda designed to sway our minds.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • 300 trained volunteers will mean Chloe is 30% of the way there already. Congrats!

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    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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