Vital support service for vulnerable Somerset adults could be split up under new proposals

By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter

23rd Sep 2022 | Local News

Somerset County Council\'s Headquarters At County Hall In Taunton. CREDIT: Daniel Mumby. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.
Somerset County Council\'s Headquarters At County Hall In Taunton. CREDIT: Daniel Mumby. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

A vital Somerset support service could be split into two parts in a bid to improve the lives of vulnerable adults.

The Crisis Support Service provides support for adults across the county with autism or learning disabilities, running outreach services and providing short-term accommodation alongside its partners.

The service is the only specialist provision of its kind in Somerset, and has enabled a reduction on both the council's general care costs and admissions to hospitals' emergency departments.

Somerset County Council's executive committee announced its intention on Wednesday morning (September 21). to split these two elements up, recommissioning the service to be run by separate partners.

The Crisis Support Service, which was created in 2018, works as part of a multi-agency partnership to reduce hospital admissions and provide targeted support to the individuals in question.

It has two main elements: a short-term accommodation service based in Taunton (which houses people for up to six weeks), and an outreach services which provides specialist support (either in-house or through partners) in people's homes.

The service is designed, among other things, to prevent costly long-term care packages from being implemented following medical emergencies – packages which could cost the council more than £10,000 per week and which provided "unsuitable and unsustainable support", often by relocating individuals outside of Somerset.

George Bray, the council's senior commissioning officer, stated that commissioning the two element separately would enable people with complex needs to receive better support.

In his report to the council's executive committee, he said: "Due to the need to have arrangements in place to support people with complex needs who are in crisis, the only other option considered was to continue with the existing services as a single element.

"However, we have concluded that having flexibility and focus on each element separately is beneficial due the complexity, intensity and unpredictability of support being delivered."

The contract for the residential element of the service is expected to be worth up to £550,000, while the contract for the outreach element could be worth up to £450,000 per year.

Councillor Caroline Ellis, assistant portfolio holder for education, said: "I strongly, strongly welcome this. It will make a big difference to a lot of people's lives.

"Somerset West and Taunton Council recently declared a learning disability emergency, and I hope that we and other councils will follow suit."

The district council's declaration included a commitment to deliver a changing places toilet in Taunton town centre by the end of March 2023 – just before the new unitary Somerset Council is due to take control.

Until earlier this year, the district had only one designated changing place toilet – located at The Iron Duke pub in Wellington town centre.

According to a 2021 NHS report, on average males with a learning disability will die 22 years younger than males in the general population – with females dying 26 years younger.

The same report indicates more than 50 per cent of people with a learning disability are likely to be in poverty when they die, 90 per cent will have been a victim of hate crime or harassment, and were up to six times more likely to die from the coronavirus.

Councillor Ross Henley, assistant portfolio holder for public health, said: "This is something I feel very passionate about.

"I am autistic, and in my day job I'm a neurodiversity campaigner. There is need for improvement across the piece."

The new services will take effect by April 2023 and will be in place for five years before new contracts will be needed.

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