Councillors backed plans to extend the remit of a scheme providing care and support for adults in Lincolnshire after the service failed to grow significantly in recent years.
Members of Lincolnshire County Council’s Adults and Community Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee supported recommendations for the Shared Lives services to be recommissioned to a single provider from January 2019, with services such as short breaks to be included as part of the enhanced contract.
Shared Lives services in the county help adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems or other needs which make it harder for them to live on their own.
In many cases, people either move in or visit their carer regularly in the daytime, which acts as an alternative to residential care.
A total of 43 people currently use the service, which is often described as being similar to foster care placements but for adults.
Lincolnshire County Council has said that it is keen for the scheme to grow, with just 0.53% of the adult social care population in the county benefiting from Shared Lives.
This compares unfavourably with 2.2% in the North West of England, the best performing region.
In order to increase the use of Shared Lives, its current budget of £616,000 is also expected to rise.
A contract with existing provider Adults Supporting Adults expires at the end of 2018 after a six month extension was agreed.
The service is expected to be recommissioned to one new provider from January 3, 2019 on a three year contract, with the option of a one year extension.
At the meeting in Lincoln on Wednesday, April 11, councillors and officers said that they wanted the scope of the new contract to be wider, looking at options such as short breaks, respite services and short-term placements, instead of the narrow focus of the existing arrangement based purely on traditional long-term placements.
Councillor Mark Whittington, Conservative member for Grantham Barrowby, said that he was impressed by how much money Shared Lives appeared to save the council.
According to statistics provided to the county council by Shared Lives Plus (a network scheme for Shared Lives service operators), the service saved an average of £26,000 a year for people with learning disabilities and £8,000 for those suffering from mental ill health.
However, the figures in reality could be slightly different as this does not take into account differences in the complexity of needs between those supported by Shared Lives and people in other types of care.
Councillor Whittington said: “I’ve just done some quick sums. We’ve got 38 people using the service with learning disabilities. That’s already £988,000 in savings on that cohort.
“We have savings here of over £1 million with a budget of £616,000. I think we can therefore show it can save around £400,000 per year to the council.
“If we’re going to expand the service it will ultimately come down to finances.
“If we can demonstrate that Shared Lives provides a great service and saves this amount of money, then why wouldn’t you want to expand it?
“If they expand though we need to make sure they have the capacity to expand.”
Councillor Robert Parker, Labour member for Carholme, asked officers at the meeting why the council could not run the service.
He said: “I know we have a commissioning culture. Why can’t we bring the contract in-house?”
Officers said that the costs would be higher if the service was run in-house, and that there was “a viable market” for an outside organisation delivering the project.
A decision on extending the service for 2019 based on the recommendations will be made by Patricia Bradwell, Executive Councillor for Adult Care at the county council.
Stefan Pidluznyj , Local Democracy Reporting Service