Questions remain over new wellbeing service in South Kesteven

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With the start of the new Wellbeing Service beginning on April 1, there have been attempts to resolve uncertainty surrounding support for vulnerable people and the future of current staff.

The new service replaces the Supporting People programme, including county commissioned housing related support provided by South Kesteven District Council.

Support will instead be provided by the Lincolnshire Independent Living Partnership formed between local charities and the county’s housing associations, which together will tender for services.

However, due to an apparent break-down in communication between SKDC and Lincolnshire County Council during the handover process, staff have received contradictory information.

Wardens in particular have been affected, with one reporting how they received a letter dated March 4 about potential redundancies, the same day they were told in a consultation redundancies would not be available.

Since then, steps have been taken to protect some jobs, with a SKDC spokesman stating: “A number of positions have been retained, however some staff are at risk of redundancy although the number is likely to reduce as the council works to redeploy people into suitable roles during their notice period which in some cases is up to three months.”

Another staff member whose role remains under question said: “We still don’t know anything really, apart from that the support won’t be anything like they receive now.”

This has caused anxiety amongst elderly people, including Spire View resident Kenneth Barnston, 81, who said: “We have 100-year-olds here and two of us are blind. It is going to be difficult without the same staff.”

A 90-year-old resident at Greyfriars said: “It’s going to leave me with nobody, and you get friendly with the wardens.”

At one point last week, councillors angry at the changes considered calling an extraordinary meeting to discuss the issues.

Coun Charmaine Morgan said: “There has been a lack of democratic process.

“The decision to end the warden service didn’t go through the relevant policy development groups.”

SKDC’s head of housing and neighbourhoods Ian Richardson said: “Our focus throughout the change has been to respond to questions from our tenants and other residents and we can reassure everyone that those who need alarm monitoring services will continue to have them in place from April 1.”

In a statement addressed to service users, assistant director of public health at LCC Tony McGinty said: “We would like to reassure you that although the services you currently receive are changing, many things will still work as they do now. The alarm service you currently receive will continue to work as it does now, whoever it is provided by.

“If you have an emergency and push your alarm, someone will answer and the appropriate response will be made, whether that is calling a family or friend, or requesting emergency services.”

Meanwhile assessments of the estimated 1,200 tenants have begun, with Mr McGinty adding: “If you have already been assessed by the new service, the Wellbeing Service will start in full for you on the 1st April and you will be able to benefit from a response service which operates 24 hours a day as well as any other services agreed with you.

“If you have not been offered an assessment yet, you do not have to do anything as the service will contact you. If you have any problems please give us a call on 01522 782 140 from April 1st.”