Ms P Watson, Commissioning Manager, Learning Disability, was in attendance for this item.
1. Ms Southern introduced the report and presented a series of slides which set out the national and local policy context to the review of services, an overview of the five services concerned, the consultation process and its findings. Ms Southern and Ms Watson responded to comments and questions from Members and the following points were highlighted:-
a) the facilities listed offer an excellent service and play a vital role in building up the skills and self-confidence of people with learning disabilities and allowing then to reach their full potential;
b) it is important that transport is available as part of a package, to allow clients to access and benefit from these facilities. Many clients need specialised transport, for example, which can accommodate large wheelchairs;
c) the logic of outsourcing these services is easy to see, as their main expense to the County Council has always been staffing costs. Service providers are urged to apply for Big Society funding and liaise with JobCentre Plus to offer work to the long-term unemployed. Ms Southern and Ms Watson commented that getting the right procurement process and support was key to achieve the best value service and draw in additional income to make contracts sustainable, and that the employment options suggested were already being considered;
d) although these services are to be outsourced, the County Council retains the responsibility to safeguard its vulnerable clients. Ms Southern confirmed that safeguarding measures would be built into contract specifications and reviewed and evaluated regularly to ensure that clients continue to receive the County Council support they need;
e) it is vital to keep hold of and gain the best benefit from the experience and enthusiasm of people with learning disabilities in running the facilities. Their carers also have contributed much and deserve the County Council’s continued support; and
f) some clients have previously been put off entering employment schemes such as those mentioned as they doubt their value when compared to the loss of benefits that they perceive would be a result. It is important to establish a balance between the experience and skills they would gain with the potential loss in financial support. Ms Southern added that there is much work still to do to clarify this issue, and the County Council will work with Kent Supported Employment to address it.
2. The Cabinet Member, Mr Gibbens, thanked Members for their comments and confirmed that he would take account of them when taking the decision. He emphasised the vital importance of key elements, which must be included in a contract – the provision of good training for staff and development opportunities for clients, a requirement that all tenders fully recognise all safeguarding processes, and the importance of maintaining client networks and keeping friends together– and asked that these be specified in the formal decision document.
3. RESOLVED that:-
a) the decision to be taken by the Cabinet Member for Adult ... view the full minutes text for item 29