How adult social care in Norfolk is changing as council prepares for “major challenges” ahead
- Credit: Matthew Usher
More support will be given to older people to help them live independently as part of a council's bid to meet the 'major challenges' of an ageing Norfolk population.
The adult social services department at Norfolk County Council is looking at moving away from residential care as it faces a greater demand on its services.
New figures reveal that the number of people aged over 65 is due to increase by 31pc in the next 15 years, while those living beyond 85 will rise by 77pc.
The council said it invests £260m per year in care providers but warned that inflation, pay costs and rising prices will put added pressure on its social care budget.
As a result, a new report going before its adult social care committee on June 19, has outlined how it intends to cope with the changes.
It will put a greater focus on ensuring people are able to live independently for longer, by working with the NHS and local voluntary groups.
Dubbed the 'promoting independence strategy', it will see the council shift its spending away from 'costly' residential care to more early intervention and prevention services.
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Aspects of the scheme have been welcomed by the chief executive of Age UK Norwich, Susan Ringwood. But she warned that caring for people in their own homes could turn out to be more expensive.
The strategy states it will:
• Enable people to live independently through giving them good advice to support their wellbeing and stop them from becoming lonely.
• Help people stay connected with others by tapping into help and support from friends, families and local groups.
• Give young adults with disabilities access to work, housing and social activities.
• Intervene earlier to prevent people's wellbeing from declining, including at times of bereavement or the early stages of illness.
• Social care teams will look at how smart technology, including home adaptations to prevent falls or access to specialist advice, can help people's quality of life.
• Look at how it can minimise the effect of disability, such as a stroke or period of mental illness, so people can retain independence.
It also notes that decisions to move people with complex needs into residential care will be made with 'good information' and 'not in a crisis'.
The report said the adult social services department is required to make the most savings it has ever had to achieve this year.
Throughout 2017/18 it will be expected to deliver savings of £14m, as well as a further £4m to replace one-off government funding, which will be removed from the budget in 2018/19.
It said the savings would be made by reducing the number of people who need 'formal services', as well as through changes to how it commissioned key services.
They include home support, day services and following through on saving decisions on reducing spend on housing-related support, and remodelling contracts for support to mental health recovery.
To deliver its strategy, the council said it would need to 'strengthen' social work to prevent, reduce and delay need.
It also aims to ensure that 80pc of its care providers are judged good or better by the Care Quality Commission.
Ms Ringwood, from Age UK Norwich, said she was not 'entirely convinced' the strategy would save the council money.
'There are often challenges to secure the funding needed to enable people to have the right support at home,' she said.
'And a lot of people get referred to residential care because it is too expensive to provide care for them at home.'
Adult social care committee chairman, councillor Bill Borrett, said: 'We're spending more than we can afford on old-fashioned approaches such as residential care, which aren't the best option for many people.
'Research shows that most people live happier, healthier lives if we can help them to live as independently as they can, for as long as possible.
'This is investing in services to help people stay independent and well, while ensuring we continue to care for the most vulnerable people.'
A second report to go before committee members outlines the department's performance up until March 2017. It found that delayed transfers from hospitals to adult social care had increased. People aged over 65 permanently admitted to residential or nursing care had also increased.
Charities have welcomed the idea of supporting more people to remain independent in their own homes.
However, they warned that resources needed to be in place to prevent individuals from becoming isolated.
Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Age UK Norwich, said it was crucial that people were made to feel part of the community.
She added: 'For many it is about feeling that you can still contribute and that seems to be a critical factor.
'If people feel that they can offer something to the neighbourhood, rather than being a burden, that has proven benefits.'
Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, added: 'There needs to be more resources put in so that independent living is not isolating people, and is about supporting people to live in the community.
'My concern is that people are going to be abandoned and lose their eligibility to services.'
A performance report being presented next week states that adult social services still needed to improve in some areas.
Delays in transfers from hospitals into adult social care had increased at a rate of around 1.5 days to 3.6 days from March 2016 to March 2017.
The report said this was largely attributable to delays from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where significant pressures and changes to recording practices had led to delays.
Meanwhile, the number of people aged over 65 being admitted to residential and nursing care increased over the same period.
The number of people admitted, per 100,000, went from 623 in March 2016 to 633 in March this year. The target set was 573.
The report said the figures reflect the same pressures driving increased delayed transfers of care, along with issues finding appropriate alternatives to residential care.