Uncertainty over future running of Norfolk day centres

Uncertainty still surrounds who will provide day care services to elderly people in the county, once Norfolk County Council stops doing so.

Norfolk County Council announced two years ago that it would no longer directly provide day care services to the county's elderly population and adults with physical and learning disabilities.

The council's announcement seemed to signal the end for centres such as the Silver Rooms and Essex Rooms in Norwich, with a belief that people in receipt of social care would use newly introduced personal budgets to buy alternative services.

But many of those people have simply used their cash to continue with the services they already have, so the Silver Rooms and Essex Rooms are still running.

Meanwhile, the council has still not figured out how services will be provided once the authority pulls out. At the moment the council has an interim in-house provider service, but has been looking at other options as to how elderly people are cared for in the future.

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Among the options are the council setting up a trading company and handing it a contract to deliver the services or inviting tenders from bidders on the open market.

But an option which is looking increasingly attractive to the county council is for its own staff to set up a social enterprise company to carry on running the service, but apart from the authority.

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That would, say officers, see staff who were highly motivated, flexible and innovative as they will have a real stake in their company.

However, officers acknowledged: 'We do not have, however, at this stage any details about how such an enterprise would be constituted, its business model or how it could carry out the enterprise without previous experience of acting independently of the council.

'Work is being done to develop a prospectus that would address these and related issues.'

At a meeting of the council's community services overview and scrutiny panel yesterday, members said they did not have enough information about the various options. They supported a proposal for further work to be carried out, so they can make a recommendation to the council's cabinet.

The cabinet will then make a decision on the future of the care services in December, with the new way of providing care set to be introduced next year.


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