Pledge to improve social care service for mental health patients in Norfolk

County Hall.

County Hall. - Credit: Archant © 2011

County council chiefs have pledged to improve the support available to adults with mental health problems in Norfolk, ahead of transferring a £4m contract back to County Hall.

Councillors decided to pull the plug on a service being delivered by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) earlier this year because of concerns about the care being provided to some of the county's most vulnerable people.

Officials from Norfolk County Council said they would continue to work closely with the mental health trust, despite transferring the social care contract back to the control of the local authority this week.

From Wednesday, around 100 mental health and social workers will move from the employment of NSFT to the county council.

Debbie Olley, assistant director for safeguarding at the county council, said there would be no immediate changes to people's care and support and some staff would continue to work at the mental health trust.

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'Social care has changed so enormously with personal budgets and we have to respond to the way we work with people with mental health. It was challenging for the trust to keep tabs with changes with health and social care and we did not take this decision lightly.

'Over time it may be we will need to review people's needs and should a service user's key worker have to change, that would be done over a period of time. The whole point of this is to have a strong focus on social care for service users and carers and have an improved service. The trust have been disappointed, but on the other hand they can see that we needed to make sure these arrangements are correct,' she said.

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NSFT had been providing social care services for adults with mental health issues, between the ages of 16 and 65, since 2008. The service supports around 1,600 people a year. However, despite giving the trust a year to improve the service, the county council decided to pull the plug in January.

Mrs Olley the county council would need to fill a small number of vacancies in the team when it transfers on October 1. She added that a head of service had been recruited, but five team managers still needed to be hired. She added she hoped the service would be protected from any potential cost cutting at County Hall to plug a 17.5m funding gap for the next financial year.

'We have developed processes to make sure no one slips through the net and services for people are not made more complex and become more complicated. We must make sure the money that we have is used well and good value for money for the money that is available. The pot is not limitless, but we will work extremely hard to keep it protected,' she said.

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