From the Chamber: A year moving forwards

7 Feb 2024
David Hare, Melanie de Jong and Andrew Mickleburgh

As Lib Dems we are aiming to involve residents to provide the services they need, to live the lives they aspire to, and to reduce health inequalities and improve outcomes for all. This year has been one of increasing pressures on the Adult Services, Health
and Wellbeing finances. As with most Local Authorities the number and complexity of cases is increasing, but despite the pressure of inflation there was has been no increase in funding for these services. However, we have had some great successes helping those who need it most.

Wokingham has reached the national target for a smoking rate of less than 5% of the population. The Integration Team were shortlisted for two Municipal Journal awards – for Project Joy and for the Keeping in Touch Project. To top it all, Adult Social Care was the Municipal Journal award winner 2023 for ‘Best Social Housing Initiative’, making Wokingham a great place to live for people using these homes, while also creating a thriving, greener future. This has meant:

  • 36 people with new homes adapted to their needs.
  • Good quality care and support on site.
  • Managing demand for adult social care packages
  • More independent adults within their communities
  • Secure long-term tenancies with good housing management: Homes for life
  • Happy families of those using these homes.

Wokingham also won two Social Work Awards, one for Group leader of the year and one social worker of the year. We achieved national success in Adult Social Care performance tests, coming top in 4 areas, and in the top 10 for another 6 measures.

Our success included the Public Health team being recognised as a finalist for the best digital initiative at the annual Innovation in Public Health Awards 2023 for work done to support the Hong Kong community within Wokingham, demonstrating how we are working as a community to make Wokingham a great place to live for everyone. We now have a dedicated, permanent Director of Public Health for Wokingham Borough that enables a fully integrated approach to public health across the whole
Council. The Public Health team have prioritised integrating services for substance misuse and mental health provision.  

There has also been real focus within the Public Health team on working right across the council with colleagues to strengthen
the building blocks of health and wellbeing with all departments.  The team is now looking forward with excitement to 2024, with a Public Health strategy on the horizon, and the excitement of the Marmot Borough work starting with the aim of reducing health inequalities and improving health for everyone.

The integrated partnership team (Health, Voluntary sector and Local Authority
working together) has had a successful annual programme. The team concluded the 22/23 year having hit all hospital admission avoidance and discharge targets; an incredible achievement!

The Adult Social Care team have had a very busy year with minimal increased resources. Almost double the number of people have been assessed for all types of support since 2022. Despite the increase, people are being assessed and receiving
appropriate support as fast as anywhere in the UK.

It is a personal joy to me that more than 21% of working age people with a learning disability in Wokingham Borough are in paid employment in 2022/23; the highest in the country. Responsibility, value and respect in each individuals workplace is something important for all of us, and we will continue to ensure that we can provide working opportunities to people with a learning disability.

In September the council purchased the Berkshire Care Home on the Barkham Road. Once re-furbished this will provide us with 52 additional nursing beds that will help to manage demand for capacity within Wokingham. This is an “invest to save” project,  providing our own beds for people who need them, ensuring they can remain in the Borough and resulting in long term savings.

During the year we strengthened the workforce in Adult Services, with appointments in Mental Health, Adult Social Care and  safeguarding, that will ensure we can provide the best possible support for the people of Wokingham.

With a relatively decreasing level of funding against an increasing number and complexity of people who use services, we are having to look at all our work and the appropriateness of the services we provide. As we go forward we will ensure we continue to do what is essential and fulfil our statutory work, while also looking at ways to make Adult Care work well for those who use services. Whilst balancing the resources available with increasing needs is not easy, we will make the decisions necessary to ensure that we continue to support those most in need. We will give the best possible service to everyone who needs support, treating each person using our services with respect and value, working with them according to their individual needs.

Cllr David Hare - Executive member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Services

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