Wokingham becomes first council to privatise social care

Will others follow this?  It is ok when things work well but when things go wrong the councils will be left to pick up the pieces.

Wokingham becomes first council to privatise social care

 
June 09, 2011

Wokingham borough has become the first unitary authority in the country to set up a company to manage its provision of social care.

Optalis, a new adult social care company set up and managed by Wokingham Borough Council, began commercial operations on Monday.

The team behind the company has taken control of all council-run or commissioned adult care services.

The company is now the third council-owned company in the borough, with Wokingham Enterprises Ltd managing the regeneration of the town centre and another, yet to be named, to manage affordable housing in the borough.

Services under the control of Optalis include day centres, employment services, home care, residential care and supported house services.

Brokerage, support and sensory needs services will also be available to company customers.

With a £250,000 council investment and a three-year contract, Optalis was set up in response to the authority’s plans to commission services.

It was also created to work alongside the national Putting People First scheme, which gives disabled and elderly adults control on how they spend money to support them.

Councillor David Lee, leader of the council, says  Optalis will allow for greater expansion of the services already available locally.

“The reasons behind setting up this limited company allows us to provide services the council had not provided in the past and to people with personal budgets, who we have given cash to, who can give us this cash back to buy services,” he said.

“With this wholly owned council company we can also sell these services on to other authorities and people who cannot buy it elsewhere.”

Mike Walsh, interim managing director of Optalis, said one of the services the company will be looking to expand on is the care
provided to sufferers of dementia.

He explained how the number of dementia sufferers is expected to rise “exponetially” in future years, with one in three people over the age of 85 expected to be diagnosed with the illness.

Mr Walsh said: “We will be providing a range of services to older people, severely disabled and older people with mental health problems.

“We are looking to maintain vulnerable people in the community.

“We are keen to be innovative and be more adaptable to providing services.

“The council is now able to sell services to make a profit.”

Susan Law, chief executive of the council, said: “We are very keen to ensure care support at home is much more readily available.

“If I am one of the one in three people who are to suffer from dementia I would rather be treated at home.”

Cllr Lee was keen to stress money made by the company, which is expected to make a profit within its first year, will be invested in services.

Cllr Prue Bray, who is leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats, said: “I am very worried that the needs of people primarily supposed to be looked after in Wokingham who are in critical need may become neglected in favour of people paying out for their own needs.

“The council is obliged to give people critical need care. The Conservatives are hoping that Optalis will make money out of people who will have their own funds and not require that level of care and will buy some services from the council.

“I hope it works because a lot of people are now dependent on it, and if it doesn’t work then the council will still be legally obliged to pick up the pieces.”

http://www.getwokingham.co.uk/news/s/2094073_wokingham_becomes_first_council_to_privatise_social_care

One Response to Wokingham becomes first council to privatise social care

  1. graham says:

    Perhaps it is about time this was tried. After all the current system has failed miserably & has been doing so for many years……witness these boards & others.

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