Brighton and Hove councillors consider setting up company to run care services

A company could be set up to provide care for the elderly and disabled in Brighton and Hove as local politicians wrestle with ways to cut spending.

Councillors are exploring whether to start a local authority trading company as part of their drive to save £30 million.

The Brighton and Hove City Council budget for adult social care is expected to shrink by about £6 million a year every year for the next five years.

A report to the council’s Policy and Resources (P&R) Committee recommends that a business case is made for a solution that critics are expected to dismiss as privatisation.

The report said: “Within the next five years the size of the provider budget is likely to reduce by a third.

“This cannot be achieved without having the flexibility to develop a more financially sustainable model which can generate new business that a local authority does not have the powers to do.”

Councillor Jason Kitcat

Councillor Jason Kitcat

The “new business” could include money given to individuals to spend on their care as they choose.

Traditionally, when people were assessed as needing care and support, they relied on the council to provide it.

But the last government pursued a policy known as personalisation. People are increasingly being given a budget which they can choose to spend on what care they want to receive. They also get to choose who provides it.

Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “The previous government introduced personalisation giving people an income to spend on their care.

“They also let them choose except they can’t choose to spend it with the local authority.”

The report to the P&R Committee meeting, which takes place at Hove Town Hall next Thursday (5 December), said: “There are local and national developments that will have a significant impact on social care in the coming years.

“These include demographic changes in the population of Brighton and Hove with a reducing number of people aged over 65 but an increased proportion of people aged 85-plus with high and complex needs and a growing number of young adults with a complexity of need, including mental health, substance misuse and homelessness.”

The report noted “increased public expectations regarding the quality of care against growing public concern about the actual quality of care”.

It added: “Over the past 20 years adult social care services have been increasingly delivered in the private and voluntary sectors, leaving a small number of in-house services that are increasingly focused on providing services for people with the highest needs, alongside short-term reablement and rehabilitation services and services of last resort.

“Between 80 and 90 per cent of ‘adult social care provider services’ are currently delivered in the voluntary and private sectors.

“In-house services do not provide value for money when compared with other providers.

“A sample review of six other authorities in our benchmarking group has shown that the majority of local authorities have stopped providing ‘provider’ services in-house.

“Nationally local authorities are reviewing their in-house provider services by delivering those more efficiently through the private sector, or by setting up a social enterprise, care trust or local authority trading company.”

Three councillors representing all three parties on the council have carried out a preliminary review of the options – Bill Randall, for the Greens, Conservative Andrew Wealls and former Labour group leader Gill Mitchell.

Councillor Kitcat said: “We’re trying to keep people out care homes and provide better but cheaper care in their own homes.” He said people often preferred being cared for in their own home.

The council is also exploring whether people in homes where just a few people receive care could move to bigger homes where staff costs could be shared more efficiently. Councillor Kitcat said that each case would need to be handled sensitively.

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