The Royal Borough’s ambition, and challenge, is to continue to deliver effective and sustainable adult social care services, which meet residents’ needs, against a backdrop of diminishing financial resources.
Building on the comprehensive options appraisal undertaken for children’s services, the council concluded that a local authority trading company was the best option. The Royal Borough subsequently approved the partnership with Wokingham Borough Council’s to deliver adult services through Optalis Limited, effective 3 April 2017, with a staffing resource of 261 FTE.
Integrated adult social care services offer the Royal Borough’s residents the greatest opportunity to receive the best quality intervention at the point they need the support, in the way they need the support, at the time they need it. The council’s ambition, and challenge, is to continue to deliver integrated services that meet residents’ needs against a backdrop of diminishing financial resources. The Care Act 2014 was the most significant change in social care law for 60 years. This legislative change enables councils to contract out social work functions such as assessment. The Council’s ambition is the delivery of effective and efficient services that improve residents’ outcomes and there is no preferred operating model – it is anticipated that in moving towards becoming a commissioning council, there will be a ‘mixed economy’ of delivery vehicles.
Building on the comprehensive options appraisal undertaken for children’s services, and complementary research into existing local authority trading companies for adult services, the Royal Borough explored delivery of adult services through Wokingham Borough Council’s provider, Optalis Limited. Optalis Limited was established in 2011; it delivers £9.6m of adult social care services for the borough, with an annual turnover of £11.8m, and has a workforce of 330FTE. The Royal Borough purchased an initial 45% shareholding in the company with a view to brokering an equal shareholding of 50% within two years of successful operation. The transfer of adult services to Optalis took effect on 1 April 2017, including a staffing resource of 261 FTE with a contract price of £30m. There is currently a further £9.6m in commissioned services for adults and the intention is that when these contracts come to an end, future delivery through Optalis is explored.
In researching different options for delivering both adult and children’s services, five key criteria important to successfully working differently in the Royal Borough were identified and these are being used to measure the impact of the new model: 1 Score for more integrated, cross-organisational – private, public and voluntary – delivery of services tailored to residents. 2 An ability to operate in a competitive market, with less rigid procurement frameworks. 3 Scope to drive innovation and sustain and improve services through improved staff recruitment and retention. 4 An opportunity to secure resources to meet residents’ needs through having access to different income streams, thereby reducing the call on the taxpayer and achieving financial savings of £1.8m over the next three years to 2020.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The Royal Borough is now in partnership with Wokingham Borough Council. There are three levels of governance to ensure that the approach delivers the outcomes required:
- The Shareholding Board of elected members from the two authorities manages the overall delivery of the company and its long term plan.
- Optalis’ Executive Board of Directors manages the day to day running of the Company.
- Monthly commissioning meetings with each individual authority manage the delivery of the contract at a local level.
Key to successful delivery has been investing in a dedicated project team to develop and deliver the project plan. This team provided overall coordination and management and supported a project board comprising representatives from finance, HR, ICT, business infrastructure and the front line children’s services. There was also substantial investment in communication at a range of levels – including staff, partners and residents. A range of communications were issued every week by email, supported by face to face drop in sessions, screen savers and co-location of the project team with the front line teams in order to provide immediate response and ‘temperature check’ at all times.
Contact: Alison Alexander