A local authority has employed the outsourcing giant Capita to clear a backlog of annual reviews of its service-users’ care packages, in an apparent attempt to cut costs and help fill a hole in its budget.The “pilot project” has so far resulted in an average cut of seven per cent in disabled people’s support packages.One service-user who contacted Disability News Service said that Capita was “blitzing” all of the disabled people receiving support through direct payments, on behalf of Southampton City Council (SCC).The Capita employee who carried out the assessment admitted cutting the direct payments packages of more than half of the disabled people they had assessed so far and said that the aim of the exercise was to cut costs.The service-user* said they were particularly concerned that the review was being carried out by a company with an appalling record of assessing disabled people for their eligibility for the disability benefit personal independence payment, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.The service-user said: “I was understandably nervous about my assessment, given the reason it was being done and by whom.“At least there is an appeals process for benefits. I’m not sure what you can do if care hours are cut on the say-so of a Capita assessor.”Earlier this year, the Labour-run council was forced to backtrack on controversial plans to force disabled people with high-cost support packages out of their own homes and into residential and nursing institutions.It had announced plans to review the personal budgets of every disabled person with a package of more than £500 a week, and consider if it would be cheaper to fund them for extra care housing, or nursing or residential care.But it was forced to scrap the plans after opposition from disabled people, including Spectrum Centre for Independent Living, a user-led organisation which campaigns and provides services in Southampton, and Disabled People Against Cuts.Ian Loynes (pictured), chief executive of Spectrum, said that service-users in Southampton, like those in many other authorities, had “not been receiving annual reviews regularly for a long time”, although some reviews had been taking place before the latest Capita programme began.He said he believed that “virtually all” local authorities were now carrying out similar cost-cutting programmes, because of reduced funding from central government.He said: “We do have intermittent reports both in Hampshire and Southampton that [council] care managers are starting a review meeting with the user with a ‘we have to save money’ message, which is completely unacceptable, and when we have challenged this with direct evidence, the senior managers claim it was just an isolated incident and should not be happening.“Whether it is isolated bad practice or likely to be routine depends on my changing levels of cynicism.”But he said Spectrum probably only heard of a minority of such cases.Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “It seems extraordinary that Southampton council, who understandably are facing difficulties in balancing their social care budgets, would further compound the problem by spending money on outsourcing the backlog of annual care package reviews. “If their sole intention is to cut the cost of care packages then, once again, they are skating on thin legal ice. “Starting a review with the words ‘we have to save money’ is unhelpful and contrary to statutory guidance. “Rather there should be a genuine conversation about what is needed to live a good life and whether the current package achieves that.”A council spokesman said that SCC had a “long-term strategic partnership with Capita”, which included “working together on projects to improve and transform services as part of our drive to deliver a modern, sustainable council”. He said: “Through this partnership, the council has contracted Capita to deliver a pilot project to address an existing backlog of reviews in adult social care. “We are committed to carrying out timely and thorough adult social care reviews, to make sure that people have the support they need to live safe, healthy and independent lives, as far as possible, and to comply with the Care Act 2014.“As part of the pilot, social workers are visiting people who have not had their support plans reviewed during the last year.“Some of these people receive direct payments, some receive services commissioned by the council and some are living in residential and nursing placements.“Learning from the pilot will help us decide whether this is the best way of making sure that we keep on top of reviews and people have the support that they need.“Some of the care and support packages have increased, while some have reduced following a review, as people’s needs have changed or they are now able to maintain their independence in alternative ways, such as through care technology. “The overall reduction in care and support payments so far following these reviews has been less than 10 per cent.”The council spokesman later confirmed that the average reduction so far was about seven per cent.*The service-user has asked not to be named
TICKETS for this Saturday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi Final tie against Wigan Warriors at the Halliwell Jones Stadium are now only available from the RFL.What If Forms for the final are also available should Saints progress to the final. You can download below.Semi Final Venue Information:Saints fans are advised that stadium work at the Halliwell Jones Stadium will be underway at the time of this semi-final fixture so spectators therefore arrive as early as possible.Turnstiles will be open from 2.30pm, so get in early and find your seat or place on the terrace.Work starts in the North East corner of the ground shortly, with the temporary removal of the Brian Bevan statue. There will be temporary turnstiles at the east end of the North stand and at the north end of the Martin Dawes East Stand.The wheelchair disabled car park in the Brian Bevan corner will become the constructor’s compound. Parking spaces in front of the main stand will be allocated to those with wheelchair disabled parking passes, which can be obtained from the RFL.Wheelchair disabled for the South, West and west end of the North Stand will gain entry by Gate A. Entry for the East Stand and east end of the North Stand is by Gate B. Entry to the East Stand disabled platforms is via the Martin Dawes reception entrance.Work in the south east corner of the ground will commence on August 8.
ROYCE Simmons says Saints’ trip to London this Saturday is like “stepping into the unknown”.As he prepares his side for their first hit out of the Stobart Super League season he admits the Broncos’ new signings make them dangerous – but until those new combinations have played together is difficult to know what to face.“They have a lot of players who have won big games in the past,” he said. “Michael Robertson on the wing was a regular try scorer for Manly. Shane Rodney has played in two grand finals, possibly three and Antonio Kaufusi has played for Australia. Then you add Craig Gower in there too and there’s a hell of a lot of experience in that side.“They’ve played alongside winners and that’s what they’ll bring to London. They also have good young English players so they are a bit of an unknown. There’s not a lot of video on them at present.”Tony Puletua and Michael Shenton won’t play this Saturday as they recover from injury but Simmons expects them both to be in contention for around week two or three.Paul Wellens is a doubt too as he is having on-going treatment for an Achilles.“These three players are important so we won’t rush them back,” Royce continued. “We want to make sure they are 100 per cent before bringing them back.“I think this competition will be strong this year. Everyone is talking about Catalans and I think they will be a very good side. They had injuries at the back end of the year but they have purchased pretty well. Hull might be ok too – they have bought in strong at half back and full back. When they get their combinations right then they will be a dark horse.“Everyone is competitive at the start of the year; it’s how you handle your injuries and the depth you have that’s important.”
LUKE Walsh masterminded superb a Saints performance as they beat Leeds Rhinos 32-18 at Headingley.The scrum half was in scintillating form as he played a part in all his side’s tries and scored a wonderful one of his own after Adam Swift’s 70 yard break.James Roby was at his impervious best and Captain Jon Wilkin returned with a bang too.The tone for the win was set in the early stages.Saints looked fired up from the outset and following two great opening sets, they forced an error from Danny McGuire to go ahead.The scrum half knocked on, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook scooped up and Tommy Makinson scored in the corner.Walsh banging it off the touchline.Saints weathered two sets right on their line – showing some great D – and then a superb kick from Burns put Leeds back in their own 20.But back to back penalties handed Leeds the advantage and Jimmy Keinhorst make no mistake.Yet, Saints won the ball from the restart and within seconds had restored their lead.Two shots at goal from two penalties were spurned as the champions opted to run the ball.And it paid off as Josh Jones took a pass and went over in the corner.Walsh nailing the conversion from the other touchline this time.Both sides had chances but failed to take them as they were found guilty of overplaying.But Walsh settled the nerves with a penalty right in front of the sticks on 30 minutes.Saints had another chance with five minutes to go after forcing an error and a drop out, but the home side held firm.And on the stroke of half time Leeds controversially got right back into it.Saints should have turned the screw at one end of the field but at the other Mitch Achurch stretched out and seemingly lost control of the ball as it hit the line.In fact, it looked short and there was a massive hint of obstruction too – but the video referee gave the decision.Saints began the second half with an unexpected set following a Leeds’ knock on, only for the ball to come out on the first tackle.Leeds marched down the field immediately and almost scored on a repeat set.But Adam Swift made a wonder break – some 70 metres – before he was hauled down. Luke Walsh then showed great feet to go over for a superb try.The scrum half was running the show and forced a drop out on 51 minutes that Saints almost turned into points.Wilkin was harshly penalised for a high tackle on Golding though after a chip through.The pressure was building and in the end it told – coming off the back of another brilliant Saints move.Roby, Walsh and Burns combined in a triangle that would have made Pythagorus jealous to send Adam Quinlan over at pace.Mark Flanagan had one chalked off after Walsh’s high kick – the second rower penalised for pushing.Saints forced more drop outs and should have gone further ahead but Jordan Turner lost the ball over the line.And Leeds went up the other end of the field and scored through Ryan Hall.It made the final stages very nervous indeed but Saints were immense in defence to see home a crucial win. Underlined in the final minute by Jon Wilkin going over following Alex Walmsley’s offload.Match Summary:Rhinos:Tries: Keinhorst, Achurch, HallGoals: Sinfield (3 from 3)Saints:Tries: Makinson, Jones, Walsh, Quinlan, WilkinGoals: Walsh (6 from 6)Penalties:Rhinos: 9Saints: 7HT: 14-12FT: 32-18REF: James ChildATT: 16500 (est)Teams:Rhinos:26. Ashton Golding; 2. Tom Briscoe, 20. Jimmy Keinhorst, 4. Joel Moon, 5. Ryan Hall; 13. Kevin Sinfield, 6. Danny McGuire; 30. Mitch Garbutt, 17. Adam Cuthbertson, 10. Jamie Peacock, 12. Carl Ablett, 14. Stevie Ward, 15. Brett Delaney.Subs: 8. Kylie Leuluai, 16. Mitch Achurch, 19. Brad Singleton, 29. Jordan Lilley.Saints:37. Adam Quinlan; 2. Tommy Makinson, 17. Mark Percival, 4. Josh Jones, 5. Adam Swift; 6. Travis Burns, 7. Luke Walsh; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 25. Andre Savelio, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 3. Jordan Turner.Subs: 14. Alex Walmsley, 15. Mark Flanagan, 19. Greg Richards, 21. Joe Greenwood.
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