Agenda item

Lindsay Ferris asked the Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Services the following question:




Agenda item 15

Whilst we agree with the proposals for this item, plus we do not wish to delay implementation of the recommendations, we have severe concerns about the impact of how the structure of WBC Adult Services in relation to Optalis has got to this position.  Plus we have concerns how it will interface in the future.


Safeguarding is an issue that impacts ALL Councillors on WBC. We therefore believe that there needs to be a major investigation into this area. Will you support the implementation of a specific task and finish group to look at the issues arising from how we got to where we are and how this change could impact the interface and working between WBC and Optalis in the future?



I am pleased that your Group is inclined to support the proposal. I also welcome your statement that you will not seek to delay these changes. However, as we have had written correspondence about, I do not believe a task and finish group is necessary in this situation. I have committed to you in writing and to Councillor Croy and I will commit to you in public that I will continue to keep you all informed on the progress of these changes.  I think it is important generally that all our efforts are focused on improving things for our residents and the vulnerable adults in our care and that our staff have the correct and most efficient structures, processes and systems to do this. This is what the change proposed is seeking to address.


I think generally, again as I have briefed yourself and Councillor Croy, we are also looking at the structure of Optalis to ensure it can adapt to the ever and fast moving pace of change within the environment in adult services. We are in the process of putting in place new directors and these changes will take a couple of months to be put in place and at that point I will be happy to update you, Councillor Croy and the Independents on progress.


I would state that Optalis is rated as good / outstanding by the CQC in its Wokingham care services and I would say in my opinion this is a fantastic achievement.  This is a credit to the leadership and the staff of Optalis who I know work very hard to achieve this.  Optalis will continue to provide care and support services for Wokingham Borough residents as it does now.


The main reason for this change is principally to tidy up the statutory controls. We believe that if we bring these under our direct control we will be able to improve performance and the quality of the service generally which is a benefit to all our residents. Also in an environment where the pace of change is ever quickening we will be able to transact a quicker response to statutory services going forwards as we will have direct control. As discussed at the meeting when I briefed yourself and Councillor Croy these changes require no additional capital and any costs will be completely absorbed in the current budget. Demand for adult services has notably increased over the last 12-18 months and it is important basically that we continue to take steps to ensure the service and the cost of it are very tightly controlled and we are always working to try and improve the quality for the best interests of our residents.


Supplementary Question

At the same meeting it was indicated that the reason for the change was that the current system was generating an element of stalling of the processes and that the time taken to get through the system had increased to 16 weeks and I think safeguarding is a very serious issue and it affects all Councillors as I mention.  Do you think you are being complacent in not accepting such a working group?


Supplementary Answer

The answer is no.  You wrote to me about this obviously and I responded with my decision.  You asked me to reconsider and I did contemplate and reconsider.  You have subsequently been in contact I believe with the Leader and the Chief Executive of the Council and they have advised, as I did at the time, that basically if you don’t agree with my decision that is fine as I respect your opinion but the correct way to go about that is to take this to Overview and Scrutiny and ask them to review the past history of the Company, the structures, the way it has been set up and the performance.


I think all of us whether it is myself, whether it is you basically, whether it is other Members, journalists, we need to think about what we say and the impact it has on the staff who work hard for us and also the adults in our care.  Basically I come from a private sector background and I have always worked for small to medium sized companies and there if you do not improve the quality of what you do you are overtaken basically and you lose business.  I am trying to bring that principle to what I am doing here to try and drive up the quality of everything that we do.  I know that the new DASS basically shares my opinion entirely. 


My view would be basically that residents looking in on me and what I am doing would want me to be focussed on things going forward and driving up the standards basically because we are caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.


So I respect your opinion but basically I do not agree with you but that is kind of where we are.