Is Charging For Some Social Care Services In Orkney Ahead?

A new residential care home for Orkney came a step closer with news of a proposed 40 bed single storey building for Solisquoy, Kirkwall.

The original plan was to build a 60 bed care home because of Orkney’s ageing demographic. The new plans put forward by the Integration Joint Board ( that’s health and social care) would allow for an additional 2 X 10 rooms to be added later.

Gillian Morrison, Interim Chief Officer with Orkney Health and Care (OHAC), said:

“There is a shared desire to take forward a flexible way of working where ‘Home First’ is the ethos and which recognises the changing needs of older people.”

‘Home First’ relies on the provision of quality services to allow a person to remain in their own home but supported when necessary.

Whilst the National Health Service is free at the point of need and also provides many other services like prescriptions free, social care has a different model and across Scotland there is no one way of consistently providing care. And these services are not all free.

Orkney’s social care sector has recorded a two and a quarter million pound overspend. This is due to the use of agency staff being brought into Orkney to cover staff shortages. These shortages occurred with sickness cover mainly for the Children’s Services team and for the opening of the new residential care home in Stromness, Hamnavoe House.

The loss of the cruise ship industry due to the Covid 19 pandemic hit Orkney hard but there was also an upsurge in marine activity in Scapa Flow bringing in income from that sector. Council Tax collections were also down reflecting the poverty that has hit Orkney, like everywhere else, because of the public health emergency.

Councillors have been looking at social care in Orkney and the costs of running its many vital services to an ageing population.

Last week, Orkney Greens Councillor Steve Sankey, successfully managed to get the council to agree to defer a decision on implementing charging for the use of the Telecare system.

The Telecare system is “an alarm unit attached to the telephone line which can have a range of sensors and monitors wirelessly connected. If one of the sensors is triggered a response centre can talk to the client or directly to a nominated contact to initiate an appropriate response to the alarm.

The Mobile Responder Service consists of a team of trained staff with access to a fully equipped vehicle, who will provide both routine and emergency responder services to people in their own homes throughout the Orkney Mainland and connected South Isles. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Telecare is extremely important. It means people can continue to live independently in their own home but with services available when they need them. You can read the full details of the services it provides here:

Councillor Sankey said that we ‘need to insure that we can protect our vulnerable people’ and that to implement charges to the telecare service ‘sends out the wrong signal at this time.’

He conceded, however, that he had ‘no problem with charging in time but not now’. Looking for a compromise and suggesting the decision is deferred Leader of the OIC James Stockan said that ‘we would rather be charging’ than cutting services. The councillors agreed to this proposal.

Commenting on the revised down plans for the new residential care home, Gillian Morrison said:

“The principal desires of clinicians and professionals were flexibility within the system and that, in planning a new care home, it should be part of an overall system of care including supported housing in due course.

“The aim would be that, as older people’s care needs fluctuate up and down, those needs can be met with care provision flexing up or down within the overall system, with an emphasis on ‘Home First’. A broad analysis of more recent figures looked at shows that OHAC is supporting people in the community for far longer, or until end of life.”

Councillors in Orkney have been warned that ‘significant savings’ will be needed next year. The Integrated Joint Board has also commented on an ‘evolving’ care strategy for the people of Orkney.

Allowing people to remain in their own home, within their familiar surroundings, the comfort of their neighbours and friends nearby is surely the best outcome. Crucial to retaining independent living for those with supported needs is the provision of the telecare system. Charging for this system may be a way forward for the council to reduce costs but the price may well be that there will be some who cannot pay or who may be put off the service.

‘Free at point of need’ the pride of our NHS is vital at any time but especially during the Covid19 pandemic. Making people pay for vital social services is the wrong direction of travel.

The Scottish Government is reviewing the provision of adult social care in Scotland because there is no consistency of support nationally.

It will be chaired by Derek Feeley, former director general of Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government, and will report by January 2021.

Derek Feeley said:

“We have a broad remit that touches on every part of the social care landscape; from the experience of those using and working in the system to how it should be funded and regulated. We will look at every option and opportunity to bring about the improvements that I know everyone working in the system aspires to achieve.”

Jeane Freeman Health Secretary in the Scottish Government said:

“This will be a wide ranging review of all aspects of a service which supports and involves so many people across Scotland. I am looking forward to recommendations that help ensure high standards of service and support into the future.

“This independent review will examine how adult social care can be most effectively reformed to deliver a national approach to care and support services – and this will include consideration of a national care service.

“It will also build upon our existing commitments to improving provision – long standing issues in adult social care have been thrown into sharp relief during the pandemic, and they demand our attention.

“We owe it to those who use and work in adult social care services to acknowledge these challenges, to learn from them, and to consider carefully how we can most effective plan for the future.”

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Related stories:

Caring for carers?

Health and Social Care Workers Reflect on their Work #Covid19

1 reply »

  1. There’s money for bins which can’t be used. There’s money for buying islands.
    But there isn’t money for looking after vulnerable people.
    I’d ask whoever it is that makes these decisions to remember that they may be old or ill one day. They might be reasonably young and affluent now, but circumstances can change.
    Do as you would be done by – it’s simple enough.

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