Shropshire Council is in final talks with a local care and support provider to run several adult social care and community based services in the county.
The negotiations follows a report presented to Cabinet last week (Wednesday 20 July 2016) which sought approval for Bethphage as the preferred provider to take on the management of services in 3 locations across the county. These include: The Meres Day Centre, Ellesmere library and Customer Service Point, Oak Farm in Ditton Priors and Innage Lane in Bridgnorth.
The Shropshire-based organisation undertook an extensive procurement process to become the preferred bidder. The charity is now working with the local authority to confirm a final offer.
Once negotiations and final contractual details are confirmed, Bethphage will run the Ellesmere library as part of a ‘Community Centre’ alongside the day centre for the elderly and adults with learning disabilities. Services and opportunities will include:
- Advice and information services, IT support, drop in sessions, etc.
- Day opportunities for adults with a learning disability
- Day care service for older people
- Library services
- Access to Council services and support for vulnerable people
- developing complimentary services that utilise the whole centre and encourage a wide variety of community use
The contract will be based on a model which promotes independence, employment, community integration and self-help for both vulnerable adults and residents. It will also include volunteering opportunities at the library and further development of the small service user run coffee shop on site, to serve the wider community. Residents who can’t access services on line, will also be able to get support and information at the customer service point at the hub.
As well as developing a Community Centre in Ellesmere, by bringing in additional expertise, Bethphage will also explore further developments at Oak Farm in Ditton Priors and Innage Lane in Bridgnorth.
Oak Farm is well established and integrated within the local community and is a supplier of farm produce, plants and preserves from the on-site farm shop and at the local Agricultural Show. Oak Farm provides opportunities for people to explore new experiences and learn new skills. It provides training and work experience in horticulture and agriculture for people who may move on to permanent employment, and supportive placement for others who, because of their disability, are unlikely to seek mainstream work. People attending the farm learn husbandry techniques while working with pigs, sheep, cattle and the flock of free-range hens.
At Innage Lane people are encouraged to access a wide range of opportunities including undertaking activities both within the day centre and the local community. A number of people are involved in producing high quality craft products which are sold locally.
Both centres will continue as usual with the view to redevelop their services to offer further opportunities for individuals to maximise their potential to gain employment.
Councillor Lee Chapman, Cabinet Member for Adult Services said;
“The Meres Day Centre is a valued resource for older people and people with learning disabilities in Ellesmere and the surrounding area. The centre already has a community café which is open to the public. Having the library and customer service point at the Meres greatly enhances its potential to become a real and vibrant ‘community centre’ for Ellesmere.
“I am pleased that we have now agreed on a preferred bidder to take on and manage these key services for both our most vulnerable and local residents.
“Bethphage have clearly expressed an understanding of the need to empower customers with the skills to access services and to make independent decisions balanced with the need to provide appropriate assistance to those unable to independently access services.
“The next few months will be very exciting time as we see these fantastic developments in these services take shape and shows what can be achieved when different organisations come together with the common goal of improving public services for all residents.”
Councillor Stuart West, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure added;
“We know that libraries play a key role in the well-being of our communities. This is why we have been working hard with local people, organisations and staff over the past year, to try and find the best solutions to meeting the needs of the local community so that their library can continue to flourish.
“The Council’s vision for the creation of a Community Centre in Ellesmere is for a dynamic vibrant venue that provides a welcome for everyone and which, alongside the provision of core services, supports better outcomes for the whole community by providing early advice, guidance and support.
“The development of this community centre should inject a healthy dose of vitality into the town and to be a place that engages everyone in the community, including vulnerable people, families and young people, in all sorts of ways.
“By transferring the library service to a not for profit organisation like Bethphage, the council is able to potentially utilise capital grant funding for the refurbishment of the centre and library. Support and advice from experienced Customer Services staff will be continue to be available on an appointment basis.”
As a not for profit organisation, Bethphage would be able to bid for additional investment from grant making organisations to develop all three sites and services.
Peter Loose, Chief Executive of Bethphage said;
“We are delighted to have been selected as the preferred provider for these services. As a Shropshire based charity, we have established a reputation over the last 22 years for providing very person centred services which give people with disabilities the same respect, opportunities and life chances as everyone else. We look forward to welcoming the existing staff team to Bethphage and building on the good work which they already do in each of these locations.
“We are enthusiastic to work collaboratively with the people who use these services and the friends associations and local communities to take forward some of the exciting ideas we have begun discussing with them.”
The new contract is expected to commence in Autumn 2016, when the services will be transferred to the new provider.