Agenda item

Update on Optalis

To receive an update on Optalis. (20 mins)


Angela Morris, Director of Operations and Martin Farrow, Chief Executive Officer, Optalis provided an update regarding Optalis following the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead Council (RBWM) joining with Wokingham Borough Council in April 2017 to jointly own the company.


During the discussion of this item the following points were made:


·         Members were reminded that Optalis had been launched as a Local Authority Trading Company by Wokingham Borough Council on 6 June 2011 with the aim of efficiency, growth and excellence.

·         On 3 April 2017 RWBM Council had joined with the Council to jointly own the company, meaning that Optalis was the primary provider for both councils.

·         Angela Morris outlined Optalis’ vision and mission.

·         Approximately 700 people were employed by Optalis and support and care was provided to approximately 5000 people.

·         Services were provided at sites in Wokingham, Windsor, Maidenhead and also Oxfordshire.

·         Optalis worked closely with the voluntary sector and the health sector.

·         Feedback received from customers was generally positive.

·         A multi-disciplinary approach was taken in order to maintain people in their own homes if appropriate.

·         Members were informed that Optalis invested in training to ensure that staff had the necessary skills to adequately support customers.

·         The Committee was informed of the services that Optalis provided.  It was noted that Optalis delivered all adult social care services, including statutory services, for RBWM Council.

·         Key achievements included growing the business as one of the first Local Authority Trading Companies in the country with the delegated powers to provide statutory services and also customer led community initiatives such as Hug in a Mug.

·         With regards to staff recruitment, Councillor Blumenthal asked whether there were significant vacancies in any particular areas or challenges.  Angela Morris commented that Social Workers and Occupational Therapists had been difficult to recruit to but that this was improving.  The recruitment of non-qualified staff was a challenge across the South East of England.  Councillor Blumenthal questioned whether workers often gained experience and then moved elsewhere.  Angela Morris indicated that many staff had come from other areas such as London.

·         Councillor Kaiser commented that he had had feedback that the quality of service provided by Optalis was excellent.

·         Councillor Kaiser also asked whether the business was fully integrated and staff covered both Wokingham Borough and Windsor and Maidenhead.  Members were informed that it was important to have a local feel and that with regards to the direct delivery of services locally based workforces generally serviced the local need. 

·         A member of the public asked what proportion of staff were from the European Union and what impact Brexit might have.  Angela Morris commented that many businesses were looking at whether this may create a risk to service delivery.  She did not expect this to create a risk for Optalis.

·         In response to a question from Councillor Mike Haines regarding the possible effect of the roll out of Universal Credit in December, Angela Morris stated that staff were aware of the forthcoming changes and would be able to support individuals.

·         Councillor Miall asked how self-funders were supported and was informed that in Wokingham there was a post dedicated to supporting self-funders, sign posting and connecting people with services as required.  Self-funders could also choose to buy services, for example, an occupational therapist, and would be invoiced directly.

·         Councillor Miall asked that if the cap for social care costs for individuals increased what impact this would have on Optalis.  The Committee was informed that any change should not affect the operating model.

·         Optalis had a turnover of £44million. 

·         Councillor Kaiser queried why a greater proportion of the budget was put towards RBWM services.  Angela Morris emphasised that Optalis provided a different range of services to the two councils.  RBWM had transferred the delivery of all its adult social services, including placements, to Optalis, whereas with Wokingham the focus was more on the provider services.

·         Councillor Kaiser asked why more was not spent on services in the Borough when Wokingham Borough Council had launched the company.

·         Councillor Kaiser went on to ask whether consideration had been given to the delivery of Wokingham’s adult services via Optalis.  Angela Morris commented that the shared model with RBWM was only seven months old and that other options may become possibilities in the future.  David Archibald emphasised that the transfer of RBWM’s adult services to Optalis had been a lengthy and complex process from the point of expression of interest to the transfer of services.

·         Martin Farrow stated that Optalis was keen to grow in the future but that this was not limited to existing relationships. 

·         Councillor Jones asked if Optalis was expected to make a profit this financial year.  Martin Farrow stated that the expectation was that it would.

·         Councillor Smith commented that it was seven months since RBWM Council had joined with the Council to jointly own Optalis.  He questioned whether there had been any particular challenges during that period or any indications that standards had dropped.  He also asked whether savings for both councils were being generated as projected.  Angela Morris stated that the TUPE of staff from RBWM Council had been communicated well.  Optalis could retain staff and share learning.  Some efficiencies had been made with regards to how services were managed.  In addition customer feedback was monitored and had even improved in some areas.  Martin Farrow stated that savings had been delivered since the establishment of the company in 2011.  Nevertheless, it was important that a safe, high quality service was provided.

·         With regards to feedback from the CQC, the Committee was informed that disappointing feedback had been received regarding one site in the Borough.  However, a recovery plan was in place.


RESOLVED:  That Angela Morris and Martin Farrow be thanked for their presentation and that the update on Optalis be noted.

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