The Chair introduced herself and the Panel.
Representatives from Positive Participation were present (Gurbax Kaur and Siobhan Samuels) at the meeting but stated that they had not intended to speak to the report and were attending only as public observers. The representatives did however state that they would try to answer any questions that the Panel had.
Paul Smith - Head of Commissioning introduced the briefing note in relation to the consultation that had been carried out regarding the Remodelling and Tender of Mental Health Preventative Contracts.
Officers highlighted that the remit of the Panel was to consider whether the consultation had been undertaken satisfactorily and whether the recommendations that had been presented to the Cabinet Resources Panel on 4th October 2016 were realistic and rational and a true reflection of the finding of the consultation.
Officers directed Members to page 6 of the report which showed that 419 people had engaged in the consultation process which represented a total of 55% of all those invited to participate. 104 (25%) were service users, four (1%) were relatives of a service user, five (1%) were carers, 14 (3%) respondents identified themselves as service providers, 10 (2%) were members of staff, seven people (2%) skipped the question, 263 (63%) were self-help group members and 12 (3%) selected ‘someone else’ and of that number three stated they were; a Director of a community interest company (CIC) for mental wellbeing, a concerned citizen of Wolverhampton and a user of services for people with on-going mental health issues.
Officers considered that given the above, 85% of users of the system who could have been affected had been consulted and this was considered to be a very strong response rate and would help to influence the direction taken by the Council.
Officers also confirmed that the services were not subject to any budget cuts or efficiency savings and that there was a commitment to maintain funding of £107,000.
At the start of the consultation process a fundamental element had been a model proposing a hub in the City Centre. However as the consultation had progressed it had become clear that service users were not in favour of this idea and as such the hub proposal was abandoned in favour of a model more akin to the current city wide model. Officers stated that this was clear evidence of the Council taking on board the feedback from the consultation and being reactive to the recommendations and concerns of service users.
Officers stated that the Council was supportive of culturally specific services but it was thought that the current provision was too narrow and that services had to be more inclusive to meet the needs of newly arrived minorities including young black males and members of the LGBT community. There was also concern that there was currently some duplication of services in the City which the new model needed to address.
Cllr Hardacre questioned whether the Council would have to cover the £60,225 currently provided by the CCG if the CCG pulled funding for two of the current service providers.
Officers stated that no, the Council was not responsible for replacing that contract but as part of the redesign of services it was hoped to get better value for money. The Council would not be replacing any monies currently provided by the CCG if the CCG pulled its funding.
Cllr Claymore queried what was meant by low level mental health preventative services. Officers stated that these were preventative services that sought to stop people having to enter the system at crisis level. The services covered areas such as social isolation assistance and places where guidance and assistance for users could be provided to prevent escalation to a crisis.
Cllr Muston stated that the Council had a statutory duty in employment, consultation and service delivery to all protected characteristics under the Equalities Act and that this included mental health consultation. Cllr Muston expressed concern that the LGBT community had not been invited to participate in the consultation exercise which was contrary to the Equalities Act 2010 and went against the Council’s own Compact agreement. Cllr Muston requested clarification as to why LGBT Wolverhampton had not been consulted.
Officers stated that members of the LGBT community would have been consulted as members of the public and officers gave assurances that consultation with the LGBT community and other groups such as ex-servicemen would be addressed in the future.
Officers also clarified that the consultation had been carried out with existing service providers as per the remit of the consultation. Cllr Muston stated that she did not accept this as it was a public sector duty to consult outside of existing users.
Cllr Muston stated that she did not accept this as it was a public sector duty to consult outside of existing users and asked why other groups who did not currently provide services had been consulted.
Cllr Moran acknowledge that processes such as this were fraught and that the removal of the hub element from the proposals did leave a gap regarding what an overarching service would look like and expressed concerns that more money would need to be invested to arrive at a suitable service. The Chair stated that the Council had to take care not to provide too much information regarding specifications prior to the tendering exercise being entered into.
Officers stated that they were considering a lead provider model which would provide a central point of contact but with city wide services and a lead provider to coordinate the services on behalf of the Council. It was stated that such a model was well established in other areas and was in fact being used successfully by Wolverhampton CVS at the moment. Cllr Moran again queried whether the £107,000 would be enough to cover such a model. Officers stated that this could not be confirmed until the tendering process commenced as service providers would be asked to bid against a defined budget and if no bids were received then consideration would have to be given as to whether this was due to the budget or other factors.
Cllr Muston highlighted that other groups such as war veterans had also not been specifically consulted and that the Epic Café was not appropriate as a venue or meeting place.
Cllr Hardacre requested clarification as to whether the Council was just dealing with its own funding areas and looking to improve on them or whether it was all being done in consultation with the CCG. Officers stated that the Council would only be looking at its own areas and the budget of £107,000 and then negotiating with the CCG. The issue at the moment was not knowing what the CCG were planning to do.
The chair stated that issues relating to mental health services for younger people were of concern and requested that this be added to any equality issues in the future.
Officers stated that there had been over 400 responses to the consultation which was deemed a good result and he credited the Officers for the work done to achieve this.
Members considered that this was a good opportunity for the Council to assess the current consultation process In light of the limited resources available. Officers conceded that the process could be improved but that the end result would be a tendering exercise for a more holistic service.
Having taken into consideration the submissions from Officers, the report and documents submitted by Positive Participation, the correspondence from Healthwatch, the assurances that consultation would in the future include LGBT groups and groups such as ex servicemen and having listened to the debate between panel members and officers, the Scrutiny Panel concluded that the consultation had been conducted sufficiently and appropriately.
Resolved: (1) That the consultation was conducted in an appropriate way and that the matter now be moved forward.
(2) That the Council’s consultation process be subjected to scrutiny and the list of consultees be updated.
(3) That a report be brought back to the Panel in 12 months’ time to evidence how the equalities implications were being addressed.
(4) That an item be added to the Equalities Advisory Group agenda regarding consultation.
(5) That the Panel acknowledge the good work carried out by community groups and note that the process would now enable all eligible groups to tender for the services.
(6) That Officers be thanked for their work in relation to the consultation.