The woman in charge of adult care in East Cheshire has vowed to do everything to keep vulnerable people safe as a new system is brought in.
Coun Janet Clowes spoke after the release of a report on how vulnerable adults will be protected while managing their own care budgets.
Under the new scheme – dubbed ‘personalisation’ – people are assessed by the council on their individual needs and given the money to pay for their care.
Coun Clowes, who oversees health and adult social care at Cheshire East council, said: “Residents will have exactly the same amount of money for their care but greater choice on how it is spent.
“In the old days the council provided everything but that wasn’t necessarily what the customer wanted. Now you can have more control.”
She admits customer safety is a concern.
“The new system does not present a greater risk than the old one, but it presents a different kind of risk. Let’s be absolutely honest. We’ve got more than 360,000 people in social care.
It would be naive to say we don’t have safeguarding issues in Cheshire East because I’m sure we do.
“All we can do is make sure we have robust systems so we can pick up any problems as soon as possible and let people know that if they are worried they can contact us and we act properly on the information we have.
“This is good news for customers. This allows them to make better choices for themselves and at the end of the day most people have very definite ideas about the care they want.”
About 48 per cent of residents in Cheshire East are already enrolled in the new scheme, which offers three options for residents:
Direct payment – money is paid into the user’s bank account and they use it to organise their complete care package;
Personal budget – the user chooses the care but council handles the administration/gives advice on agencies;
Directed care – a complete care package controlled by the council.
The government wants 70 per cent of eligible people enrolled in a scheme by April 2013 but CEC reckons it will have just 60pc sorted.
Coun Clowes, whose team has a £98m adult social care budget for 2013, added: “We are slightly behind target but ahead of the national average, but we aren’t fussing about it as long as we are moving in the right direction.”
The safeguarding report anticipates the Caring for the Future Act, which starts in 2015, will make it a statutory duty on the council to ensure the safety of adults in social care.
Coun Clowes added: “Safeguarding is not currently the council’s statutory responsibility and we don’t know why.
“We have been fighting for and lobbying the government about this and the act coming through in 2015 will ensure more responsibility for adults is taken by councils.
“When people have direct payment we have very little control – we don’t know if down the line the carers they choose will fleece them or rob their house. That’s the kind of issue we have, but we are tackling that by ensuring we have robust assessment systems in place so we forewarn people and guide them to providers who offer services which are open and robust so we feel confident to recommend them.”
She said personalisation will be a careful balancing act for her team.
“It’s about getting that balance right between allowing people choice but wanting to keep an eye on everything. We don’t want to come across as a paternalistic local authority insisting people do what we say, but on the other hand, most of our customers are vulnerable in one way or another.
“So what we are trying to do is to start to look at ways we can ensure people get the quality of care they need in a protected way so that although they are vulnerable, they don’t fall foul of people who don’t have their best interests at heart.”
To help with safeguarding there will also be Healthwatch – an independent watchdog over health and care services which takes over from the current body – Links – but will have more power. It will make spot checks on carers.
At the end of the summer, a new ‘safeguarding trigger’ system was brought in to make sure that safety alerts reached the council as quickly as possibly and were dealt with straight away.
Coun Clowes said: “We have been able to deal with these and most are small matters. If they are serious we are able to alert the Care Quality Commission.
“The safeguarding team is good at assessing the situation very quickly and highlighting those that need immediate attention.
“Many things disappear into nothing but I would rather know about them than miss something.”
She said there was rising budgetary pressures for the older demographic in Macclesfield.