James Jamieson: new thinking on old people’s care

Councillor James Jamieson
Councillor James Jamieson

This month Central Beds Council leader James Jamieson discusses the issue of elderly care.

There’s been a lot in the news recently about changes to the way that we fund care for adults - particularly for increasing numbers of elderly people as we all live longer.

The government’s proposals to cap people’s care costs at £75,000 are just part of the solution to ensuring we help people live well in their old age.

We know how much older people value their independence and we want to do everything we can to help them be safe and happy at home for as long as possible

As a council we are developing home care and other community services that support people to live independent, fulfilling lives and that are less costly than residential care so that our money goes further.

I’m particularly proud of our ‘reablement’ service. This is all about helping people, so to speak, get back on their feet after an illness, fall or a spell in hospital. It involves short term intensive home support helping people build up their strength and confidence and also helping with practical things such as equipment to aid them and supporting with specialists like physiotherapists. As customers are able to do increasingly more for themselves we’re able to scale down our support to the point that they regain their independence.

In just under two years, we’ve helped thousands of people and their families get their lives back and avoided over half a million pounds of residential care costs. It’s one of those ‘win, win’ solutions that is good for people and for taxpayers.

Where people find that they need extra care, we are increasing the supply of housing that can provide this. At this month’s Executive meeting councillors approved plans to build high quality housing for older people at the Dukeminster site in Dunstable. It’s the first in series of similar developments planned for whole of Central Bedfordshire. The scheme will feature 80 self contained flats with access to round-the-clock care together with facilities such as a café, hobby rooms and beauty suites. Sheltered housing tenants and other older people’s representatives have helped design the new facilities to make sure they really meet older people’s needs. This new state-of-the-art accommodation should be open by winter 2014.

We’re building these new facilities out of council housing funds. The government has given us greater control of our finances for council housing. We are making use of these new freedoms to invest in care and accommodation to meet the needs of our older residents.

Our approach to social care and to funding housing are just two examples of how we are running services efficiently. Despite having had our government grant cut by a third, we have kept our commitment not to put up Central Bedfordshire’s council tax and avoid cuts in services by reducing our running costs by £50million over the last four years. As council tax bills arrive in a few weeks time I hope that you will be reassured of our commitment to spend your money wisely.