Monday, 29 June 2009

Audit Committee report on Telecare: much cause for alarm

The Hendon Times covers a damning audit committee report concerning Telecare, the alarm system used by many elderly people in Barnet. Telecare is the service that sheltered housing residents will rely on more once the wardens are removed from the schemes. The problems seem to come down to a lack of clarity about the level of service.

This is a common problem where public authorities contract with outside bodies to provide a service. We will have far more of this if the council's 'Future Shape' programme is implemented to any great extent. Immediately, this report gives sheltered housing residents and their supporters more cause for alarm than they have already.

Here are some extracts:
Without a complete, signed, agreed and approved SLA between Adult Social Services and the service provider the following risks may materialise: in the event of a misunderstanding, dispute or an event affecting a service user parties to the agreement may deny responsibility or accountability....
There is a risk that if telecare service providers are unaware of the performance standards expected by the Council poor service delivery may occur and expose service users to dangerous life threatening situations....
Without regular reconciliation there is a risk that Telecare services may not be restricted to those entitled... resulting in the Council... making payments for unapproved Telecare users and/or overpayments could be made, resulting in a loss of income. Further, there is a risk that eligible clients may not be receiving the Telecare service allocated to them....
Surely the solution here would be to make the service available free to anyone that wants it?
Where means testing of Telecare applicants is not competed in a timely manner, there is a risk that there may be delays in delivering the service to eligible and vulnerable users. This could result in an event that could damage the reputation of the Council.
This is always the big worry of public authorities: the event that could damage the reputation of the council. Never mind what it does to the poor, hapless individual that the council has failed!

I worked for a year in a civil service office that was having a constant battle over who, them or the local authority, should fence off part of a small river, with neither wanting the responsibility or the cost. This mystery, of course, could have been solved quickly if someone had pushed a small child into the river. Thankfully, it never came to that.

Barnet council must sort out Telecare now, or it must not abolish the sheltered housing wardens.

Access the audit committee report here. The Telecare item is detailed on pages 19-20.


Don't Call Me Dave said...


I have a friend who is a social worker. Her ‘patch’ includes Barnet and she told me that the problems with Telecare are well known in the profession. The council is not just ignoring residents who are complaining about the warden proposals. They are ignoring the people on the front line who know what they are talking about.

But it’s the age old story. The council knows best and we should all just roll over and shut up. Sadly, I fear it will take your nightmare scenario of someone being injured (or worse) before the council will see sense.

The council can find £1million a year to pay allowances to councillors, but not for care for elderly residents.

Anonymous said...

I think that there are three issues that should not be confused. The scrapping of the wardens and the tokeninstic use of Telecare as an excuse for this and the Telecare Service. Not all are related.