Adult social care vastly underfunded in Devon

“A new report has found that Devon County Council to be one of the lowest spenders on adult social care.

Most adult social care spending in England is paid for by local councils.

The report, commissioned by the Salvation Army, examined nationwide social care spending of rural and urban councils and concluded that Devon was among the worst.

The charity calculated the “spending potential” for over-65s with a disability of every local council and unitary authority.

In Devon, the theoretical per person spending was approximately £6,900, a fraction of the £32,000 that Lambeth Council in London can spend.”

“Almost half of England’s bus routes ‘at risk due to lack of funds’ “

“Almost half of England’s “vital” bus routes could be scrapped due to a lack of funding, according to local authorities.

Local Government Association (LGA) analysis found the free bus pass scheme was underfunded by about £652m in 2017-18.

It said councils were having to fill the gap between government funding and the cost of the scheme, with free bus passes for off-peak travel being a legal entitlement for those over 65, or those with a disability.

However, the constraints have meant local authorities have been spending less on discretionary services such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

Almost half of all bus routes in England receive partial or complete subsidies from local councils.

The services are at risk as councils struggle to maintain the current levels of support, the LGA warned.

It called on ministers to bring back full funding of the costs of the concessionary travel scheme.

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“An estimated funding gap of £652m a year for concessionary travel is unsustainable for councils already struggling to protect other subsidised bus travel in rural areas, or helping young people with their travel costs,” said LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett.

“Properly funding the national free bus pass scheme is essential if the government wants councils to be able to maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.

“If this is not addressed in the spending review it could lead to older people having a free bus pass but no bus to travel on.”

Department for Transport figures showed local bus journeys in England fell by 85 million – or 1.9% – in the year ending March 2018.

The councils say more than 3,000 supported bus services since 2010-11 have been either withdrawn, reduced or altered.

“It is for councils to decide which bus operations to support in their areas, but we help to subsidise costs through around £250m worth of investment every year,” a Department for Transport spokeswoman said.

“£42m of this is devolved to local authorities and a further £1bn from government funds the free bus pass scheme, benefiting older and disabled people across the country.”

“Motability firm boss quits after news of £2.2m bonus”

Owl says: Bet May and her cronies HATE the National Audit Office!

“The boss of the business that leases cars to people with disabilities on behalf of the Motability charity is stepping down after it emerged he is set to receive a £2.2m bonus on top of his seven-figure salary.

Mike Betts, the chief executive of Motability Operations, came under fire earlier this year after MPs called his annual £1.7m pay package “totally unacceptable”.

A report by the government spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), published on Friday says as well as his “generous” remuneration, Betts is in line for a previously undisclosed performance bonus worth about £2.2m.

Following the report, Motability Operations announced that Betts would stand down from his position by May 2020, while the group’s chairman, Neil Johnson, would retire in April 2019.

In a statement, Motability Operations said: “After 16 years in the business, Motability Operations chief executive Mike Betts and the board of Motability Operations Group plc have agreed that, following the implementation of actions agreed as an outcome of the NAO review, and working to help the new chairman settle in, a suitable successor will be found, and Mike will step down from the board, no later than May 2020.

“The board is clear that recommendations made by the NAO will benefit from Mr Betts’ experience and skills to see them through.”

The Motability scheme enables disabled people to lease adapted cars using their enhanced mobility disability benefits – either disability living allowance or its successor, the personal independence payment. It currently helps about 614,000 people, many of whom would otherwise struggle to afford a vehicle.

The NAO is critical of the performance plan put in place for Betts and his fellow directors in 2008, saying that the targets meant to incentivise “excellent performance” were set at levels below what the company was achieving when the scheme was introduced.

The targets were “easily exceeded” and in the first seven years of the plan, five executive directors received “generous” remuneration of £15.3m in total, a near fourfold increase for what the NAO suggests was unexceptional performance. …”

Grants to facilitate people with disabilities to put themselves forward for office

“People with disabilities are to be offered thousands of pounds to help them run for elected office in next year’s council elections as part of an effort to tackle under-representation in town halls.

Grants averaging £4,000 will be made available to some to cover costs of campaign expenses including specialist transport, screen reader software, sign language interpretation and braille transcription.

Only 10% of councillors have a disability, compared with about 20% of the UK population. The government is offering £250,000, which is expected to fund around 60 candidates. [The Guardian]

The Access to Elected Office fund provided such grants since its launch as a pilot in 2012 under the Coalition government, but after the 2015 general election the Conservatives put it into limbo.”

Is this why we now have a Minister for Suicide Prevention?

“Theresa May told to scrap fit-to-work assessments after nearly 50% of women attempted suicide during process:

Theresa May has been told to scrap “appalling” fit-to-work assessments after The Independent revealed nearly one in two women trying to claim benefits had attempted suicide.

SNP’s Ian Blackford grilled the prime minister on “the impact of her government’s own social security policies” on people’s mental health after she made a public commitment to reduce the number of self-inflicted deaths.

He pointed to an exclusive report by The Independent, which revealed that attempted suicides among out-of-work disability benefit claimants have more than doubled since the introduction of fit-to-work assessments in 2008.

Mr Blackford used the weekly prime minister’s questions clash to challenge Ms May to agree to “eradicate policies and circumstances that lead to people to believe that suicide is their only option”.

He told MPs: “I’m glad the prime minister agrees with me because, as reported by The Independent, nearly one in every two women taking part in the UK government’s work capability assessment say they have attempted suicide after or during the process.

“A series of secret internal enquiries into these reveal that Conservative ministers were repeatedly warned of the policies shortcomings.

“Will the prime minister commit today to ensuring that her new minister of suicide looks at the impact of her government’s own social security policies and at long last scrap the appalling work capability assessment?”

Ms May defended the assessments, which she said were regularly reviewed by the Department for Work and Pensions.

She said: “These were assessments that were introduced by a previous government [Labour in 2008].

“It is important that we get these assessments right. I think it is right that we are encouraging people into the workplace and wanting to ensure that those people are in the workplace – who are able to be in the workplace – are given the support to enable them to do that.

“That is what we want to do, I think it is right that we maintain assessments.”

The row came after Ms May appointed Jackie Doyle-Price as the first ever minister for suicide prevention as part of a £1.8 million push to reduce the number of people taking their own lives.”

“Minicars” wow elderly in Tokyo

“TOKYO (Reuters) – When Honda Motor Co (7267.T) launched the latest version of its N-Box a year ago, it promoted features on the pint-sized minicar such as error-detecting pedals, automatic emergency braking and moveable seats, part of a push to market the vehicle to young families.

But a drastically different demographic has made the N-Box the country’s best-selling passenger vehicle: roughly half the owners of the most recent model are 50 or older.

Automakers had hoped high-tech options would attract younger buyers to minicars, or kei-cars, even as the number of Japanese drivers under 30 has slid nearly 40 percent since 2001.

Instead, with a price tag starting around $7,500 and low ownership taxes, minicars have gained a more loyal following among the rapidly growing population of Japanese elderly, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

“After their children are grown and leave home, more people are looking to downsize from larger family cars to more compact ones,” said Kiminori Murano, managing director at Tortoise, a dealership specializing in minicars in Yamato, Kanagawa prefecture, just south of Tokyo.

At Tortoise, seniors have overtaken young families as the biggest customer group in the past decade, making up more than 70 percent of its clientele.

Kei-cars represent nearly a third of all Japanese passenger car sales, and about one of every 20 cars sold this year has been an N-Box.

All of Japan’s major automakers sell the no-frills, fuel-sipping vehicles, almost exclusively for the domestic market. With their 660cc engines – a size more common in motorcycles than cars – minicars are considered too small for most overseas markets.

Many in the industry predict that eventually, automated cars, taxis and buses will keep the elderly mobile for longer.

Until that future arrives, demand for cheap, safe and easy-to-drive vehicles such as the N-Box is growing sharply among older Japanese in a country that is home to one the world’s most rapidly aging populations. The success of these cars could also provide a blueprint for marketing such vehicles to older drivers overseas.

When Yoshiyuki Imada’s car insurance expires early next year, the 68-year-old retired truck operator from Kagoshima Prefecture is planning to trade in the Toyota Mark II sedan he has been driving for nearly 20 years for a minicar.

“Smaller cars are easier to drive as you get older,” he said.”

“Bank Closures Can Be Devastating For Disabled Customers – Where Is Their Support?”

Dr Lisa Cameron SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow:

“… Whilst it is true that online banking has opened the doors for many, it has also shut the door to others. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, which I chair, has recently published research revealing the devastating impact bank closures have on disabled customers, for whom the alternate services are found to be both inaccessible and inadequate.

The banking industry must stop leaving disabled people behind as they move forward with their plans. This is a customer-led industry, and this industry is simply failing a sector of society. I’m inclined to point out that if this group of customers were perhaps, wealthy business owners, the service they offer would improve remarkably quicker.

90% of disabled people surveyed in the Disability APPG’s inquiry reported that their use of bank services had already suffered due to the branch closures. Some now have to travel for up to three hours to be able to do their banking at an accessible branch, and others reported being forced to be more reliant on family and friends, losing a sense of their independence. One even said: “My wife has to find time off work to take me [to the bank]”.

These problems are only going to increase as branch closures continue to roll out. While online banking may be presented as a solution for those with mobility disabilities, it is not a complete solution by itself. 93% of respondents to the APPG’s survey felt that online banking services are not a “sufficiently accessible and a satisfactory alternative”. For those with visual, cognitive, memory and learning disabilities, the complexity of online banking and the need to remember passwords and “memorable information” make it overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Many elderly disabled people also lack the necessary internet connection and technical skills. And, of course, doing something like paying in cash to your account still requires an actual branch anyway.

The overall image is that the move to online banking cannot be made in its entirety. Accordingly, some banks have also started to offer mobile bank replacement services – vans that travel around local areas providing a temporary replacement for areas without a permanent branch. According to the inquiry, however, only 12% of survey respondents who had experience with the mobile replacements found them to be an appropriate replacement.

Firstly, the vans used for this mobile service were frequently described as inaccessible, having large stairs that require individuals to climb into. Secondly, many respondees reported that the services offered by these mobile replacements are “extremely limited”, and that the vans did not stay long enough in each place.

All in all, the inquiry indicates that disabled people are significantly and disproportionately disadvantaged by the closure of physical bank branches. For some disabled people, anything other than face-to-face banking is an impracticable and stressful experience, and the only real solution is to retain access to physical bank branches or provide, well-located alternatives with the full range of services.

This failure to account for disabled people is not only a disservice to valuable customers, but may also breach the law. The Equality Act 2010 requires public bodies not to put disabled people at a “significant disadvantage” if they can avoid this by taking “reasonable” steps. The closures, for many respondents, cause extensive difficulties and have left them isolated and dependent, unable to access vital services that are important to everybody, and the alternatives provided are clearly insufficient.

Disability groups have done the job of the UK Government once again and proposed solutions to this problem; community banks. These accessible and well-located buildings can house a number of different banks under one roof, reducing the costs to the banks to keep branches open. Whilst banks in competition with one another might resist such plans, perhaps the needs of the customer for once could take precedent.”