York Social Care "Meltdown": Two Temp Bosses Get Joint £1,450 A Day
6:04am 27th June 2014
(Updated 4:45pm 27th June 2014)
Conservative councillors in York claim adult social care in the city is in "meltdown", as Minster FM can exclusively reveal £1,450 a day is being paid to two temporary adult social care bosses.
The chief executive of York Council, Kersten England made the appointments after three managers, who earned an average of £64,442 a year, left the organisation for "unrelated and personal reasons". On the subject of their departure Kersten England said in a statement:
“It is a matter of fact, communicated to all Group Leaders and lead spokespersons for adult social care, that two assistant directors have resigned for unrelated and personal reasons. A cross-party member briefing session took place on Monday about the service.”
It is unclear if the managers who are moving on from the city council have been given leaving payments. The council has said "These members of staff resigned for unrelated and personal reasons. The terms of staff leaving the organisation have to remain confidential". The council has also confirmed there were no disciplinary proceedings taking place against the three departing managers.
The council has said the £1,450 combined payment to the two new temporary Assistant Directors are for a maximum of 203 days over the next year. The council will not pay tax, National Insurance, pensions, sick pay or any payment for days they are absent.
Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of Health & Wellbeing at York Council said in a statement to Minster FM:
"While it is always saddening when valued members of staff decide to move on, it is not surprising that talented individuals should wish to seek new challenges and further their careers."
"Adult Social Care departments across the country are facing unparalleled challenges as a result of an ageing population and reducing national budgets, combined with a statutory duty to provide care. In making appointments to the two interim Assistant Director posts our absolute priority has been to ensure that we recruited highly experienced individuals who would be able to help the council meet the challenges ahead. Value for money has, as always, been a key driver in the recruitment process."
The appointments come after criticism of another temporary director. Sarah Tanburn, was appointed earlier this month on £700 a day plus VAT to work four days a week for a year as Director of City and Environmental Services. At the time of her appointment earlier this month, Chief Executive Kersten England hailed Sarah Tanburn's expertise saying:
“I’m pleased to welcome Sarah to City of York Council’s management team. Sarah brings much relevant experience from both private and public sectors and I look forward to her sharing her expertise with us. Sarah has joined us at a crucial time and will be a key player in the development and delivery of the Local Plan.”
AUDITORS RAISE YORK ADULT SOCIAL CARE "CONCERNS"
Minster FM's exclusive about the £1,450 combined payment to the temporary bosses, comes as external auditors raise concerns about the performance and budget management of adult social care in York.
The council's own latest financial report, to be discussed by the council's Cabinet next week, shows that the Health & Wellbeing department has overspent by £1.391 million. This has been put down to rising numbers of elderly people in York, with higher numbers using council services than predicted. Figures for recent months show the overspend is reducing.
This week, a report by external auditors Mazar's, said that the auditors were "concerned at the lack of progress in making progress in making improvements to budget management and other aspects of adult social services". The report continued saying:
"We are concerned that the lack of progress in delivering service improvement, together with the challenges of the Better Care Fund and the new Care Act, mean that the council is at risk of failing to deliver good value for money in adult social care services and the best outcomes for local people".
However, the auditors said they are working with council officials to fix the problem and said that:
"The Chief Executive has recognised that insufficient progress has been made and has instituted an accelerated recovery and improvement process, working closely with the Director of Health and Wellbeing."
A report by the council's Head of Internal Audit raised concerns about council-run care homes in York saying:
"There are currently no comprehensive assessments undertaken to establish whether customers have the capacity to manage their own finances. This has resulted in the cash handling procedures being applied inconsistently at council establishments. Customers are also not currently provided with secure storage facilities in their rooms for cash or other valuables. The weaknesses in controls surrounding handling customer’s money increases the risks that money is lost or stolen, or that allegations of theft are made against members of staff."
Minster FM asked if any outside bodies had been brought in to help the council improve adult social care. A council spokesperson said in response:
"We involve external bodies as part of our continuous improvement and through the transformation programme. This is the norm and involves such sector led improvement as peer reviews and work with bodies such as the Association of Directors for Adult Social Services (ADASS)."
Continuing his earlier statement to Minster FM, Paul Edmondson-Jones said:
“We will continue to work with partners, including those in health and the community sector, to ensure that we can continue to support the city’s most vulnerable residents now and in the future.”
The council's Chief Executive Kersten England, also continuing her statement, added:
“I have confidence that Paul Edmondson-Jones, as director of Health and Wellbeing, will continue to strengthen the management of this critical service.”
COUNCIL CRITICISED OVER "MELTDOWN" & "EXTRAVAGANCE"
The concerns about adult social care in York were first raised publicly by opposition Conservative councillor Paul Doughty, who said that the Health & Social Care department appeared "close to meltdown".
Speaking last week, before Minster FM's investigation and York Council's response, Paul Doughty accused the council of secrecy over the issue saying:
"Adult Health & Social Care appears to be in chaos. Tracey Simpson Laing was removed as the responsible cabinet member last month. Two of the most senior Assistant Directors have resigned, and now we hear that at least one Service Manager has also resigned. Despite repeated questions from myself and Conservative Group Leader Chris Steward asking for clarification of the problems within this department, the Chief Executive of this Labour Administration refuses to divulge any information, and we believe the residents of York are entitled to transparency when it comes to such an important council function."
"Unlike sport and cycle races, peoples’ lives actually depend on the services the council provide here. Elderly and disabled residents who have already endured rising costs under this administration, without any noticeable service improvements, could now face further threats to their health and wellbeing. Appointing yet more interim staff with no local knowledge and at unknown daily rates- which is about all that has been revealed to us about what is happening- isn’t even a sticking plaster, it’s a desperate, expensive and futile attempt to keep a department functioning that appears from the outside to be on the brink of collapse."
"We are asking for transparency and we are asking for answers. Stonewalling our party may be an acceptable political tactic, stonewalling the people of York is not."
York Conservative leader Chris Steward gave his reaction to Minster FM's report:
"It's obviously an incredibly concerning problem that there's been in the department and I think the real revelation you've brought to the table is how much these two new interim directors are being paid. Just under fifteen hundred pounds a day is absolutely eyewatering and it's absolutely outrageous once again."
"We've spoken out against this before. We've had the high profile Sarah Tanburn who's been taken on for a year with no councillor involvement and for two interim directors to be taken on again is just wrong in my eyes. It is legal and that is undoubtedly the case. But there should be councillors as part of the process rather than the Chief Executive having the delegated authority that she keeps using in such key positions. We need a much fuller recruitment process, it should be much more open and members have to be involved."
"We're talking about people's lives on the line and lives at risk, that is undoubtedly the potential downside. It certainly takes money out of the front line which is very concerning. But it also is very worrying from a process point of view, if things are going wrong then things will ultimately go wrong at the front line and that's what our biggest concern is."
Lynn Jeffries speaks for the opposition Liberal Democrats on Adult Social Care. She said in a statement to Minster FM:
“It is clear that there are huge problems in adult social care under Labour. They have lost control of the budget, failed to deliver the necessary reform to deal with demographic changes and key staff are now leaving. The external auditors have exposed significant weaknesses in the department and these need to be addressed.
“The plans to spend £1,450 a day on new directors will seem excessive to many residents and once again these decisions have been taken behind-closed-doors and away from proper public scrutiny.
“We need urgent answers on a number of issues, including how the finances will be brought under control and what has happened to the botched Elderly People’s Homes project which is already late, over-budget and on track to deliver fewer beds than Labour promised. As well as what the future is for the currently empty Oliver House.
“Going forward the council needs to fully explain how it intends to ensure that personalisation is at the heart of the service, with people given more control over their care needs and services being tailored to the individual. This is actually the way to deliver better services for vulnerable residents and focus the money where it is needed.”
The TaxPayers' Alliance accused York Council of "extravagance" last night over the appointment of the temporary directors. The campaign group's director John O'Connell spoke to Minster FM giving his reaction:
But the Labour Cabinet Member in charge of Adult Social Care, Linsay Cunningham-Cross hit back at the political criticism. In a statement she told Minster FM:
"Health and social care presents huge challenges for the council now and in the years to come and it's critically important that we get the right officers to lead the transformation agenda going forward if we are to achieve better integration and at the same time modernise the services we provide. These challenges are not unique to York and are being faced by councils up and down the country, but some are systemic and our new Assistant Directors will tackle them head on with the experience of having done so successfully elsewhere before."
"My main focus is on getting the service to a place where it is delivering the best possible care for vulnerable residents in our city, and as Cabinet Member that is exactly what I will be holding officers to account on".
Minster FM will be speaking to Linsay Cunningham-Cross in more detail about the issues raised in this report on Monday.
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