Our Man in Westminster
There is considerable anxiety in Tenterden about the future funding of services provided by the Day Centre, when the system changes next year. The Tenterden Day Centre is a model of how to help elderly people who might otherwise become isolated in their own homes. In the circumstances it was helpful to hear the views of Kent’s managing director of adult services, Oliver Mills, at the Day Centre last week. He pointed out that there are three big challenges; that people are living longer, that our expectations of the quality of life for elderly people are rising, and that more people want to live at home. All of these challenges are the result of beneficial developments, but they do mean that the delivery of services has to be done in a different way. Essentially, from next year all those who want it will have a personal budget, so they can decide which services they want to pay for. Obviously this could have a knock-on effect for institutions like day centres, as it could make it more difficult for them to plan which services they need to provide. At the same time the change is designed to allow more of the money provided to be spent at the sharp end, rather than in bureaucracy. The solution between now and next April, when the change comes in, is for information to flow freely between the council and its older clients, and those who are helping them. The Day Centre is an interesting test of how this will work, as it provides services not just for older people but also for younger disabled people. One thing that must not be allowed to happen is that the Day Centre’s activities are weakened. It provides a great service which is not available otherwise, and it should be helped to flourish under the new regime.