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Southport & Mersey Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 3 December 2007

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 Social care in Liverpool is “good

LIVERPOOL has retained itsgoodsocial services rating, and independent inspectors say the capacity for further improvement ispromising.

 The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) has again graded Liverpool as a 2 star authority on a scale of 0 to 3, and highlighted several areas in which the city council has improved over the last year.

The report says the local authority nowperforms wellin helping people live at home and in providing intensive home care – and concludes it has meant a reduction in the number of people admitted into long-term care.  It also highlights joint work with the NHS which has led to improved speedy recovery from illness, and a reduction in the number of days people with long-term conditions spend in hospital.  In addition, it says more people are being discharged from hospital as soon as they are fit and well enough rather than causing bed-blocking.

Councillor Dave Antrobus, executive member for health and adult social care, said:- “I am absolutely delighted that this independent report concludes that we have continued to make progress in raising standards.  We face significant challenges in delivering social care in Liverpool, but the hard work and co-operation between the city council and partners such as the PCT is making a massive difference in improving the quality of care for vulnerable people.”

CSCI welcomes the “effective leadership and good corporate and political support” within the service, and concludes that there is “increasing evidence” that the city council is becoming “more inclusive, more responsive and more proactive in meeting the needs of the city’s residents”.  The council’s record on providing small items and adaptations for people within 7 days is noted.  Support for carers is described as good, and the report highlights the recent opening of a carers centre as an example.  And the recent investment in residential and community treatment for people with drug and alcohol related problems is praised for contributing to an improvement in their health.

Executive director of community services, Tony Hunter, said:- “Over the last 12 months we have continued to drive up standards and create a service that provides early intervention, is integrated with the NHS and allows us to stop problems becoming crises.  I am proud of the commitment of our staff to improving and delivering top quality services for the most vulnerable in Liverpool.  There are still a number of challenges but I am confident we are in a good position to improve further and help an increasing number of people live how they want in safety and comfort.”

The report highlights a number of areas for development, including:-

Effective financial monitoring;

Workforce development and training;

Improving contract monitoring arrangements;

Reducing the waiting times for major adaptations;

Further reducing the number of delayed discharges from hospital.

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NEW figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed there were 3,300 excess winter deaths of older people in the North West last year. With the Met Office predicting a colder winter this year, Age Concern is urging older people to claim the benefits, such as Pension Credit, and help with heating available to help them stay warm and well.

With the average fuel bill having risen over 60% in the last 4 years, and with predictions of further price hikes in the New Year, it is understandable that many older people worry about affording high fuel bills. The average bill has risen from £572 in 2003, when the current Winter Fuel Payments were established, to £924 today. Yet by not heating their home adequately older people could be putting their health at risk. In the previous 6 years alone, there were almost 150,000 excess winter deaths of people aged 65 plus in England and Wales. Cold-related illnesses, such as pneumonia, contributed to many thousands of these deaths.

The charity is warning that millions of pensioners are missing out on benefits, such as Pension Credit, which could help to make it easier to pay their bills. Many older people are unaware that in addition they may be able to claim help with energy efficiency, insulation and heating improvements. Some men aged 60-65 may also be missing out on the Winter Fuel Payment because it isn’t paid automatically to them as they aren’t yet receiving their State Pension.  As part of its year-long Your Rights benefits campaign, Age Concern is urging people to get in touch to find out what they could claim. The charity can provide free advice and information about what money benefits and help with heating they may be entitled to, and can help to make claiming simple. To find their nearest Age Concern or for more information older people, their friends, relatives or carers can call the charity’s free information line on 0800 00 99 66.

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said:- “We know many older people feel they need to cut back on their heating to reduce their bill, yet this could be putting their health at risk. With fuel costs sixty percent higher than four years ago, it is no wonder that many pensioners worry about paying expensive bills. Yet millions of older people are missing out on benefits or help with heating costs that could make meeting their bills easier.  Older people shouldn’t have to worry about health versus wealth. We would urge any older person who is finding it difficult to pay their fuel bills to contact their nearest Age Concern for a free benefits check or phone our information line on 0800 00 99 66 for more information.”

Age Concern is also calling on the Government to provide more money for vulnerable older people. The charity wants to see the annual Winter Fuel Payment increased by £100, the Basic State Pension raised to at least £119 per week, and automatic benefits payments introduced, so all pensioners can afford to heat their homes. The charity is also urging energy companies to do everything they can to protect vulnerable customers from price increases.


Nearly 90% of all excess winter deaths are of people over the age of 65.

Almost 1 in 3 older people live in homes with inadequate heating or insulation making their homes more difficult to heat and/or keep warm.

More than 1 in 4 people living in fuel poverty are over 70 years old

Average annual energy bills are now almost £1,000. This will absorb 16% of the income of a single pensioner dependent on the pension credit minimum guarantee and the £200 Winter Fuel Payment.

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