New dimension for learning disability services

A pioneering plan to transfer Somerset’s Learning Disabilities services to a social enterprise was given the green light today.

The County Council’s Cabinet endorsed proposals to move the management of the services currently provided in-house by the Council’s Learning Disabilities Provider Service (LDPS) to a new, not-for-profit organisation.

The contract to set up the new social enterprise will be awarded to Dimensions UK, a national not for profit company, in a move to secure the long-term sustainability of the services.

As more younger people opt to get their support from non-council providers, the LDPS is supporting an increasingly aging group of customers. Without change it faced potential decline and instability.  A social enterprise will be more flexible, able to set up new services quickly and offer the kind of support that younger people are seeking.

The aim is that by spring next year services supporting around 900 people would transfer to the new social enterprise, including long-term residential care, supported living, home care, crisis support and employment support.

Councillor William Wallace, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Learning Disabilities, said: “A huge amount of work has gone into these proposals which represent a major new chapter for these services that look after some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“Customers and their families have been heavily involved throughout the project, and this included representatives co-evaluating bids from potential providers.”

Steve Scown, Chief Executive of Dimensions UK said: “This decision is a key step in the transformation of learning disability services across Somerset and we’re delighted to be awarded the contract. At the start of August, we’ll be talking to council staff, customers and their families alongside many other groups to develop a new social enterprise securing a long-term sustainable service across the county.”

Around 1,100 Council staff (over 900 FTE) will transfer to the new enterprise under the proposals. Trade unions have been engaged throughout, and transferring County Council staff will be able to continue their membership of the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Cllr Wallace added: “This will be a major change and I appreciate that change is often unsettling for staff as well as those supported by the LDPS. We are committed to helping support and manage this to keep any disruption to a minimum.”

The LDPS is jointly commissioned by the County Council and the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). On 23 June, the CCG considered and approved the recommendation, subject to the final financial position of the contracts.