Agenda item


Questions to be asked by Members of the County Council of the Leader of the Council, a Cabinet Member, or a Chairman of a Committee.  The question will be answered by the relevant Member and the Member asking the question may then ask a follow up question which will also be answered


Mrs M. Compton asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Children, Communities and Localism whose reply is set out below the question:-




I understand that the Early Years' budget has reduced from £22 million in 2009/2010 to £12.4 million in £2013/14.    What are the consequences for Early Years and Early Education of a budget cut of £10 million?




The consequence of changes in government grants is that we have become more focused on targeted intervention with families that need it, developing provision at a local level, and working with our partners to provide the best outcomes in the community.


By focusing on the outcomes that our children need, innovating and finding better ways to work together with partners, we have faced the challenge of shrinking resources and increased demand.


The transformation of children’s services social care services into Families First saw some efficiency savings, but this wasn’t the main driver of change – it was about changing the system so that the right children get the right help at a the right time.  The change moved us from a traditional hierarchical service based system to one of locality based resources that were allocated on need. Improvement at the early years foundation stage,  better planning, better information sharing, improved use of resources and  customised approaches to communities were all consequences.


Today we see vast improvements in standards of nursery provision, with 84% of Staffordshire’s settings being rated by Ofsted as either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’


Our priority remains ensuring children have the best start in life, because, in the long run, that is not only the best outcome for the child and their family, but for the authority too.


We also intend,  through our work in achieving excellence in Early Years,   to ensure that there every 0-5 year olds has the best start in and are school  ready, not just those who are vulnerable.


Supplementary Question


There has been a reduction of 47 people in the last four years working in the Early Years and Early Education Teams.  There used to be 114, there are now 67.  I just want to ask, what are the consequences for the staff and the work that they do in this reduction of 47 staff over the last four years?




I have not got those figures available and in front of me so I will respond to you in writing.


Note by clerk:  Mr Lawrence provided Mrs Compton with the following written response:


The numbers of staff working directly with children and families on the front-line were protected, and have not reduced as a result of changes to early years provision.


The staffing changes were the result of changes to support functions, some of which had reached their objectives or there were changes in external funding.  – e.g. the work of the Children’s Fund. Others from the School Improvement Service transferred to Entrust and continue to perform their role. The changes of staffing at a management level were not solely across early years but across Families First Early Help; the changes from a single service delivery model to a multidisciplinary delivery model have led to a more efficient system which has stripped out much duplication. This has subsequently led to more effective staff supervision and better and more focused management. Case loads are still being managed effectively, and have not increased as a direct result of these changes.


The breadth of work that front line staff undertake is now wider, but this is the result of the individual needs of our targeted families rather than a lack of professional support.


Mrs S. Woodward asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing whose reply is set out below the question:-




At the Council meeting in March, the Cabinet Member confirmed that only around 3.5% of the Local Crisis Support Scheme fund of £1,475,587 for April 2013 - March 2015 had been spent on direct crisis support, a total of £52,637. He also indicated that £498,700 has been allocated to crisis prevention schemes. Can he tell me please:


a)    how much has now been spent on direct crisis support;

b)    how many people have now received help;

c)    when will the proposed crisis prevention schemes start operating;

d)    and what is planned for the further £900,000 (approximately) remaining in the fund?




(a)  To date £66,090.00 has been spent on direct crisis support.

(b)  We have had 585 successful applications supporting 540 individuals.

(c)  (i) The Casserole Club local community meal sharing network was launched on 30.04.14 and will be fully operational in the Districts of South Staffordshire, Lichfield and Tamworth by 19.05.14.  This will be extended to the rest of the County by 01.06.14.

(ii)  The Public Health facilitated intergenerational cooking clubs, menu planning and budget awareness programmes have been commissioned locally with a multi-agency approach.  All grants have been awarded to successful applicants with implementation of schemes expected to commence by end of June 2014.

(iii)  The Social Isolation and Loneliness scheme Uniting Staffordshire will commence in September 2014 with successful providers delivering local support from January 2015. Please refer to the response given to County Council Meeting 15th May 2014 Question 5.

(d)  (i) Carer Specific Programmes - These will prevent and limit Carer experience of crisis to the value of £147,800.

(ii) Debt Prevention - Work is underway to explore how the crisis fund can be used to tackle issues of debt, including legal and illegal money lending. This will involve working with Credit Unions and the National Illegal Money Lending Team.


(iii) Environmental Crisis - Scoping work is underway to explore how the crisis fund can be used to support people who experience crisis as a result of severe adverse weather conditions as experienced recently across the Country. This will involve exploring practical, emotional and humanitarian support in partnership with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Civil Contingencies Unit initially.

(iv) Returning to Work - This will support those securing employment with travel, food and utility bills until their first pay is received. Typical package may include a Staffordshire CC travel pass for up to one month, a supermarket food delivery and fuel support. This helps those that may not have taken employment due to having no money available and not being able to afford to travel to work.

(v)  Examples of good practice from around the Country are being gathered to inform future commissioning intentions.


Supplementary Question


I notice from the information given in “(a)” that we have now spent around 4.4% of the crisis fund.  It has risen from 2.4% at the beginning of the year, 3.5% in March and 4.4% now.  So the levels of spend don’t correlate to the level of need that we know is out there.  A lot of the crisis prevention scheme, it seems to me, is about “jam tomorrow” or perhaps not “jam tomorrow” but “bread tomorrow”.  I will continue to ask these sorts of questions to ensure that they are being addressed.  My particular question I want to pose to Councillor Marshall is one I actually sent to him in an email on 1 March.  I pointed out to him that Councillor Adamson and I on that day visited the Pye Green Christian Centre in Hednesford which operates both a food bank scheme and the local crisis support scheme.  We both found it very enlightening.  Did he know, for example, that the Pye Green Christian Centre is acting countywide on behalf of Staffordshire County Council.  They helped 73 people across the whole of Staffordshire in April this year; and they handle through their centre about one ton of food per week; and supported over 3,800 families over the year April 2013 to March 2014.  A number of concerns were raised to us by the people who operate the scheme, mainly volunteers, and I asked the question whether the Cabinet Member could spare an hour or so to meet Councillor Adamson and myself there.  Would that be possible please? 




I fully accept that I haven’t replied to your request to meet you and Mr Adamson and yes, I absolutely will.


Ms S. Peaple asked the following question of the Leader of the Council whose reply is set out below the question:-




Will the Leader join with me, and my colleagues in the Labour Group, in deploring the comments of Councillor Mike Worthington at the Corporate Review Committee on Tuesday 15 April, in which he denigrated both the youth service itself and the young people of Staffordshire by suggesting a link between youth club attendance and teenage pregnancy, and by calling the youth service "damn silly."  Does the Leader agree with me that Councillor Worthington's remarks were unhelpful, ill-informed and uncalled for?




Mr Worthington and I have discussed this matter, I have also seen Mr Worthington’s contribution to the debate on the webcast and spoken to others who were at the meeting. He has assured me that as he began to make his comments to the committee he was repeatedly interrupted and unable to express the points he wished to make clearly.


I am therefore satisfied that your interpretation of Mr Worthington's comments is based on an incomplete contribution and therefore taken out of context.


In a democracy you have debate and as Leader I have to accommodate many, sometimes differing views. However Achieving Excellence for Staffordshire Children is something I hope we all agree on.


Supplementary Question


I was quite strictly brought up and I was taught that when you make a mistake and get something wrong you put your hand up to it and apologise.  I am very disappointed that the reply I have had from the Leader appears not to want to do that.  I’ve watched the webcast three times.  Councillor Worthington was not interrupted.  He made a speech which upset a number of the young people present.  I am very disappointed that we have not had an apology to those people from the Leader.  So my question is - was the Leader watching the same webcast as I was?




I was.


Ms S. McKiernan asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing whose reply is set out below the question:-




Staffordshire has an increasing population of older people, and the number of residents over 75 is expected to double by 2033.

In view of the dangers which loneliness poses to the health of elderly residents in particular, what are the specific measures the County Council are taking to deal with it?




I absolutely agree with Mrs. McKiernan that the dangers associated with loneliness are a major issue for Staffordshire.


Social isolation and loneliness can be a serious issue not just for older people, the impact can include mental and physical ill health. The council is committed to tackling the issue, and we have taken a range of steps to ensure that we are supporting older people in Staffordshire.


We have developed a ‘Social Isolation and Loneliness’ business case and are now gathering customer insight to help us develop our commissioning intentions to reduce social isolation and loneliness.


We have already commissioned a number of existing schemes:-


The ‘Up for a Chat’ campaign, run between January and April of 2014, saw nearly 100 individuals and over seventy businesses across Staffordshire volunteer to reduce social isolation in older people. Supported by us, and following appropriate safeguarding checks, those people were guided and supported to generate meaningful relationships with potentially lonely and isolated individuals. Since the campaign ended in March we've received lots of positive feedback from both volunteers and the people they chatted to, and we are considering how to take this approach forward.


We also commission befriending schemes, provided by Royal Voluntary Service, Age UK and Polish Centre, and lunch clubs to support lonely isolated individuals.


We are working with each District to offer their own individual scheme to address social isolation and loneliness.  For example, South Staffordshire already has a Good Neighbourhood Scheme in place.


Finally, the Casserole Club project helps people share extra portions of home-cooked food with others in their area who might not always be able to cook for themselves. Like a local, community-led takeaway, members serve up meals to their neighbours, getting more people cooking fresh food while strengthening local neighbourhood relationships and reducing social isolation and loneliness.


Supplementary Question


I am very interest to learn more about the ‘Social Isolation and Loneliness’ business case and the other initiatives you mention and how they may be applied in my division.  What I am concerned about is how they are to be funded.  This Council has to make massive savings in order to balance its budget.  How can you ensure that the needs of lonely and socially isolated older people are prioritised over all the other major issues the Council has to address?




I think I hinted earlier in the Chamber that trying to maximise the wellbeing of our elderly people is one of the key priorities for this Council and indeed our health economy because if we can minimise the money spent on the expensive care for these people, I think that it is a big step towards curing our problems.  Specifically, one of the problems you talk about here is loneliness.  I fully accept that people, living on their own and are lonely, even if they have plenty of money, can be at risk of mental illness and depression.  So that is why I have tried to put down as much as I can in my answer – to give you an idea of some of the schemes that are going on to combat loneliness.


It is one of these hidden evils in society and if everyone can do their bit, I think that would be a big step towards what you are looking for.


Ms C. Atkins asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Care whose reply is set out below the question:-




Who is the County Council consulting about the proposals contained within the Supporting People Review?




Consultation on the proposals for the Supporting People budget to date have been with key internal stakeholders, partner organisations including the Partnership Trust, the Police and Crime Commissioner and District councils, and provider organisations. The Supporting People review is complex, and in order to achieve the best results for local people – and clarity around how individuals may be affected - we are talking to those organisations directly involved initially, before working with provider organisations to broaden our discussions out to those people who currently use the provided services and wider stakeholders.


The proposal to review the contracts was approved by Cabinet following ‘call in’ on the 11th March and local councillors have received face to face briefings. District Commissioning Leads are regularly briefed as the proposals develop to ensure they can keep local stakeholders, including Members, fully informed and involved.


The majority of this consultation has been done through face to face meetings but there have also been workshops internally and with Sheltered Housing and Community Alarm providers who subsequently received written correspondence asking them for their views on the proposals.


Further briefings and workshops are being scheduled with partner organisations and all the providers will have been met, on a 1-2-1 basis, by the end of May. Many of these providers have already begun to discuss the issue with the people who use their services. A detailed list of engagement to date is available and the involvement of Members of all parties is welcome at every stage of this review to ensure that, collectively, we are supporting vulnerable people in our communities.


Supplementary Question


You do mention at the end of your response the involvement of service users.  But what I am concerned about is that service users should be at the centre of the process; and do you agree that it is absolutely vital that service users are consulted; and what will you do to ensure that providers, and we directly, talk to service users because they are the ones who will really know the impact these changes will have on them at home.  If we are trying to boost community provision, the only way we can get this right is by talking directly to service users.




Clearly the most important people in the whole process are those who will be most directly affected by any changes to the services provided under the Supporting People programme; and it is vital that their voice is heard.  The organisations who provide the services, whom we support with funding, clearly have a responsibility to work with their clients.  With our guidance, they will be able to use existing relationships to work with people, many of whom will be vulnerable, to reshape their service to ensure the best quality and best value support is provided.


Ms C. Atkins asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Care whose reply is set out below the question:-




What progress is being made with creating new Dementia Centres of Excellence within Staffordshire?




We have taken feedback into consideration, and whilst we appreciate that this may not be everyone’s desired solution, we believe that the Dementia Centres of Excellence project will improve care for people living with dementia in Staffordshire. We have carried out a procurement process in order to find the right provider for the new centres, and following a rigorous process, the remaining bidder, Symphony, submitted their final bid at the end of March 2014. Since then the project team have been evaluating each individual element of the bid before making a recommendation about whether or not to award them with ‘preferred bidder’ status. A final business case is due to be taken to Cabinet in June 2014, for a decision to be taken.


Alongside this process, work is also continuing regarding Knivedon Hall in Leek. Consideration is being given to whether a Dementia Centre of Excellence will be developed on that site in the future by Symphony, should they be awarded the contract. A decision on this will be made by the Property Board in June 2014.


Supplementary Question


Being the Member for Leek South, I am particularly concerned about what is happening in Leek.  Councillor White may be aware that over four years an agreement was signed between the County Council and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, in March 2010, in a blaze of publicity to say that they had agreed that a centre of excellence for dementia was going to be created.  Four years on, Leek seems nowhere near achieving this much needed facility.  So I want to ask what criteria will be considered in determining the location of a centre of excellence for dementia and is the agreement between the two Councils worth the paper it is written on?




It is the case in life that sometimes, when ambition confronts reality, reality bites harder than expected.  To that end, it remains an ambition to deliver dementia centres of excellence across the County, including in Leek.  However, the process of bringing that forward is going to longer than perhaps Mr Ellis might have considered in 2010 because commercial realities and the availability of funding means that these sorts of projects cannot be brought forward as quickly as I would have hoped and anticipated.  I am afraid that I cannot answer the second part of your question about the criteria for determining the location of dementia centres now as I do not have that information to hand.  I will therefore respond to you in writing.


Note by clerk:  Mr White provided Ms Atkins with the following written response:


I write in response to your supplementary question submitted at County Council on 15 May with respect to the criteria for determining sites for Centres of Excellence.


The primary aims of the project is to provide people with dementia with a homely environment in which to live, to provide excellent care, to help them to live their lives with dignity and promote choice and enable individuals to live as independently as they are able. Location sites for the Centres of Excellence should directly support these principles.


We aim to create a range of services which will support a holistic care pathway for people with dementia, ensuring residents, carers, friends and families and local communities are able to access dementia care services in order to meet their needs.


When determining sites for the Centres, consideration was given to:


·           Proximity to local amenities/town centre (shops, restaurants, places of worship, bank, post office, open spaces, leisure facilities etc.) so people living in the Centres can easily enjoy the benefits of the local community, if they so wish.

·           Proximity to local bus and rail transport links and road networks, to provide ease of access to the Centres for staff, carers, friends and families and members of the local community.

·           Provision of a site of a sufficient size to allow the provision of a building of a suitable size, to enable the delivery of the accommodation, facilities and services required to meet project aims.

·           Proximity to local healthcare services such as GP, hospital, dentist etc.

·           Sources of local environmental and noise pollution, to ensure Centres are not built in areas of high noise or pollution (where this cannot be mitigated).

·           Local topography, to ensure Centres are not built on adversely high or sloping land, as some residents may have physical impairments or disabilities which would make mobility and/or wheelchair access difficult.

I trust this information answers your question fully however please contact me if I can be of any further assistance.