Lincolnshire County Council responds to concerns on housing wardens

Lincolnshire County Council
Lincolnshire County Council

The Mercury asked Lincolnshire County Council key questions about the new wellbeing service. These are the answers they gave us.

Consultation – residents say they weren’t consulted at all, and if they were, some of the current problems could have been avoided.

A number of events were held throughout last summer to inform with the public about the upcoming changes, including one at the Stamford Corn Exchange, the Conference Room, Broad Street, Stamford, on 16 August 2013. These were the most recent in a series of consultation events which started in 2009-10 and feedback from these helped shape the development of the Wellbeing Service. Residents from schemes across South Kesteven attended these events.

Transition – there was almost no warning of the changes and some residents still haven’t been assessed.

Key information about the Wellbeing Service, including upcoming changes and how these would affect residents, has been available through the engagement events mentioned above and we have been regularly sending out information to tenants via service providers and landlords for eight months now. It is really regrettable that some tenants seem to not have received this information or attended the events provided. All individuals who have been in receipt of the previous service are currently being contacted directly and will be reassessed as quickly as possible for the new Wellbeing Service, and people assessed as high risk by their old service provider will have already been assessed. We continue to work very closely with our partners to ensure the best possible transition for people.

Assessment – residents feel assessments over the phone take away their dignity. Questions such as ‘can you wash yourself’ can be humiliating.

It is never our intention to make people feel uncomfortable or upset when being assessed for our services. The initial telephone screening for the Wellbeing Service is designed to make sure that we do the right assessment for people.

Whilst a question about someone’s ability to wash themselves may seem intrusive, it is a really simple way of gleaning important information as to whether the person being assessed needs help with personal care – as this is something the Wellbeing Service is not able to provide but other services can.

We try hard to ask questions that cannot be misinterpreted and are sorry if this makes some people feel uncomfortable. Once initial screening indicates that the Wellbeing Service is the right one for the person being assessed, they are offered a face-to-face assessment at home.

Face-to-face support – residents feel comforted by the face-to-face support of wardens and are not comfortable with support being on the end of the phone.

We understand what the warden service means to residents. Face-to-face support will still be available including through the assessment, brief intervention and the rapid response elements of the Wellbeing Service, and where continued face-to-face contact is critical to a resident, the Wellbeing Service will work on finding this kind of support for people in their local community.

Level of support – concern that an alert will result in either an ambulance or a relative being called. Many residents’ families live long distances away and many incidents don’t require emergency services.

One of the improvements offered by the Wellbeing Service is response to non-critical emergencies in residents’ homes. Residents can be confident that when support is required which doesn’t require an ambulance, a responder will attend their home no matter what time of the day or night, although it is important that residents understand they will need to opt into this service. This 24/7 service is an improvement on the old service, which was not previously available countywide.

Overall the feeling is that care provided by the wardens has been replaced by support, which the residents feel is a key difference. Many of them are now very concerned, particularly those aged 90 and above. Some said the humanity had gone from the service. It would be good to know if there was any reason other than finances behind the withdrawal of the warden system?

Lincolnshire County Council has never provided wardens, although some service providers have used wardens to provide the support services we fund. But this support will now be provided by the Wellbeing Service.

It will provide proactive, high quality support to more people and has been designed to keep them safe, confident and independent through in-home technology, like telecare, and other equipment, such as grab rails.

Response will be made in the same way through the monitoring and alarm system, giving service users and their families peace of mind. The Wellbeing Service will be available to all individuals, aged 18 and over, regardless of housing tenure – making it a more universal, streamlined approach to accessing and delivering services. It will provide high-quality support, while reducing attendances at A&E, emergency admissions and length of stay in residential care.

The new service is designed to save money, not because it is cheaper, but from reducing the number of people who end up in hospital or care settings as a result of things going wrong at home – something everyone tells us they want to avoid.