A Service Fit For The Future

Learning Disability services ‘will improve’ and ‘will modernise’ making it fit for the future when it transfers to a new Social Enterprise, Full Council heard today.

A number of LD staff, service users and their families gathered at Full Council earlier today to hear Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Cllr William Wallace, confirm that its service needs to change if it’s not to ‘wither on the vine’.

Cllr Wallace said: “Our learning disability service users are voting with their feet and using their personal budgets in other areas. This is a good thing. But it does make our services look extremely expensive when compared to national, regional and even local benchmarks. In some cases, 40% more expensive. This is unsustainable.”

With the number of adults with learning disabilities in Somerset set to increase, it is even more important that the new not for profit Social Enterprise contracted by Somerset County Council last July delivers services users need and want, now and in future.

Somerset County Council Chairman Christine Lawrence accepted during Full Council today a petition with over 800 signatures from staff, Learning Disabilities service users and families. There were also a dozen critical questions and a protest outside Shire Hall against the transfer.

Cllr Wallace said: “We value our incredible staff and their critical role in supporting customers and carers and will do all we can to ensure all the necessary consultation takes place between all parties.

“However, this is fundamentally about modernising a service which without change will wither on the vine – it can’t compete with other providers and less people are choosing to use it.

“The decision to move to a social enterprise was done for a very specific reason – it will be better in the long run for our service users. The result will be a better service and one that is sustainable in the long-term as we manage the reduced funding that all local authorities have to live with. We want better and we believe this contract will deliver better outcomes for our service users.

“The Somerset Social Enterprise is committed to meeting the future needs of people with learning disabilities across Somerset. In doing so, it will draw upon its reputation for innovation in the sector to further develop support, focusing on enabling customers to contribute to their communities as active citizens and lead fulfilling lives.

“We have gone to great lengths to engage with service users, parent/carers, staff and unions and shared information as and when we have it. This will continue with ongoing conversations before any formal consultation around terms and conditions and a review of day services which, over the next year, will involve customers, their parent/carers and staff in helping design the support they want to see.”