Home Care, School Buses & Helicopters

Detailed home care remodelling options revealed

On September 12th, Bridgend Council’s Health & Wellbeing committee continued their discussions on a remodelling of home care/“home help” services in the county, which I mentioned back in April. Further consideration of the proposals was delayed until a firm business case was produced, and that was subsequently presented to the committee at the meeting (Item 3).

At the moment, BCBC provides 4,600 of home care hours  in-house. It’s said the cost of the in-house service is £23.85 per hour since job evaluation, while external providers would be able to provide home care for £14.36 per hour – a saving of up to 40%.

As in April, there are three options:

  • Option One – Full transfer of 4,400 home care hours to an external “partner organisation”, with BCBC retaining 200 hours of the Bridgeway scheme (for dementia). Around 315 staff would transfer to the external partner from the council. It has the most benefits (bigger savings) but the biggest risks (potential market failure, concerns about quality of care).
  • Option Two – Part transfer of 3,500 home care hours to an external “partner organisation”, with BCBC retaining 1,100 hours of dementia care (including the 200 Bridgeway hours). ~216 staff would transfer to the external partner, with dementia care teams remaining in-house with BCBC. It wouldn’t offer as much in terms of savings, but it would minimise the impact on employees.
  • Option Three – Part transfer of 2,500 home care hours to an external “partner organisation”, with BCBC retaining 2,100 hours of complex care and dementia (including Bridgeway).

Despite this, all of the proposed options show a financial shortfall compared to BCBC’s medium term financial plans, ranging from -£91,000 for Option One (despite savings of £2.44million) to a whopping -£1.01million for Option Three. However, this is dependent on a whole host of things – including the contract with any external partner – so it’s not set in stone.
Because of those shortfalls, officers recommend that Option Three be ruled out, leaving options one and two as the only realistic ones on the table.

There’ll still need to be plenty of consultation with councillors and the public. When it hits home, it’ll either be portrayed as “Bridgend Council entering partnership with X to provide sustainable home care”, or it could also be interpreted as “Bridgend home care to be privatised”.

The headlines write themselves, don’t they?

If agreed, the contracts for external home care providers could be put out to tender by March 2014, with the process completed by August 2014.


Bridgend school & college transport set for reviewAt the cabinet meeting on September 17th, possible changes to school and college transport were unveiled (doc), which made the front page of this week’s Glamorgan Gazette.

At the moment, the council is legally-obliged to provide free school transport for primary pupils living at least 2 miles from school, and secondary pupils living at least 3 miles from school. Transport for those with special needs (SEN) is met on an individual basis.

There’s no legal obligation relating to nursery pupils, sixth-formers, voluntary aided school pupils or further education students.

However, at present, BCBC provides free transport for full time nursery and primary pupils living 1.5miles from school, has a 2 mile limit for secondary pupils, and provides services for voluntary aided and post-16 students (who live at least 2 miles from school/college) as well.

It looks like that’s about to change radically.

BCBC’s provision is considered to be one of the more generous home-school transport schemes in the country, while there’s a massive overspend compared to what the council receives from the Welsh Government to run school transport. With savings to make, the inevitable has happened.

Subject to consultation, the proposals are:

  • Alternative forms of transport for SEN and Referral Unit pupils, including greater use of minibuses over taxis, staff possibly transporting SEN pupils themselves, encouraging parents to use their own vehicles and possible collaboration with neighbouring local authorities.
  • Scrapping free transport for all over-16s (sixth-formers and college students) with the possible exception of SEN pupils and those in receipt of EMA, saving at least £350,000.
  • Moving to statutory minimum distances for free transport (2miles primary, 3 miles secondary etc.), which would save an estimated £650,000 in total. Though there would still be arrangements for those whose route to school is considered “dangerous”.
  • Transport to voluntary aided (mostly religious) schools would only be provided where the school is the nearest available school for the pupil and they live beyond the statutory distance, saving another potential £550,000.
  • Increasing the charge for surplus seats on school buses further from £270 annually (the price which was agreed as part of the 2013-14 budget) to “reflect the true economic cost of a seat”.

Similar moves in other local authorities – in particular Neath Port Talbot – have proved controversial, as this no doubt will.
I think the main sticking points here will be SEN transport, as well as issues relating to the difference between post-16 college students and sixth-formers (the latter would still be able to pay for surplus school bus places, college students can’t).

The biggest one is that if BCBC move to statutory distances, there’s the possibility there would no longer be any significant free transport for Brynteg, Porthcawl and Cynffig Comprehensive pupils, as well as significant reductions for Maesteg (because practically all bus students live within 3 miles).

If approved as outlined, in total the move could affect 1,845 pupils and sixth-formers, and possibly 750 college students.

There could be positive spin offs, especially if this means more pupils end up walking and cycling to school.

For example, Brynteg Comprehensive pupils would take a big hit – especially those living at the Coity end of Brackla and Litchard. However, upgrades to foot/cycle routes mean facilities aren’t as bad as they used to be (with the exception of Litchard Cross). It’s a 30 minute walk, probably 15 minutes by bike.

Sadly, I think the most likely outcome with either be parents shelling out the higher fees for surplus bus places, or more cars on the road during rush hour.


A heliport for Bridgend? 

An interesting planning application has been submitted for a commercial heliport on Bridgend Industrial Estate, based at a former car sales site in between Kingsway and Western Avenue. The above plan isn’t perfect, but if you’re familiar with the area you’ll probably get the gist of where it is.The plans aren’t that extensive, so don’t expect a terminal building or anything like that. It’s a simple temporary waiting room/office and a car park, making use of the car sales plot. A more permanent building could be constructed “once the heliport is established.”

It’s intended for there to be one flight per hour between 7am and 10pm on weekdays (with shorter operating hours at weekends).

The initial goal is to improve links between Cardiff Airport and Aberporth for the avionics industry. There’s also a desire to provide a link to Gatwick for executives, and there are several major multinationals in the Bridgend area that could be served, so it’s perhaps not as ridiculous a proposal as it might seem. Flight paths would need to be agreed with the Civil Aviation Authority beforehand.

The inevitable issue would be noise. In my opinion, it should be far enough away from Brackla, Coychurch and Waterton not to cause too much noise, and it doesn’t look like any helicopters would be flying low over houses either. Plus helicopters would have the railway and A473 to contend with.