According to an article in the Penny Post (pennypost.org.uk) last week, West Berkshire Council is set to raise its Council Tax by 1.99%, the largest possible increase for non-ring-fenced funding without going to referendum.
Apparently it hasn’t chosen to add the extra 3% that it could have used for adult social care because it had spent less than expected due to the excess deaths in the region’s care homes.
In Oxfordshire, the proposal at the County council meeting held on 9 February (yesterday) was for an increase of just under 3% on our council taxes for 2021/2022.
So, in addition to the maximum 1.99% increase allowed, they have chosen to take a 1.00% increase for adult social care in 2021/22 with 2.00% planned for 2022/23.
The report states that “the number of people receiving adult social care services remains broadly in line with forecast increases.”
Yet hidden in one of the background papers is a little note which says that there is a reduction of 32 short stay beds in care homes to align with current demand which was agreed in 2020.
So perhaps the comment in the Penny Post was right – demand for care home beds has decreased during the pandemic.
The Oxfordshire Council Corporate Plan states that they will support people closer to home and only utilise care homes to provide more specialist care for people.
It says that adult social workers are taking a ‘strengths-based’ Living Well at Home approach to helping older and disabled people live independent lives. They are focusing on a person’s strengths rather than starting with ‘needs’, while making sure not to ignore the real challenges some people face.
The plan says that this approach draws on the person’s own strengths and capabilities, and works with them to explore how their family, social network and available community resources can support and promote their wellbeing.
Of course this new strategy requires staff to support people in their own homes and the plan admits that Oxfordshire has challenges with recruiting and retaining staff because of the relatively high cost of living in Oxfordshire.
According to Councillor Hannaby, the County has reduced the hourly rate paid to care workers so I’m sure the recruitment challenges will only get worse.
She also asked how this new system will be monitored and was told that reports on performance will come to the Scrutiny Committee so we’ll have to see..