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We moved elderly people on to a paid service to keep support sustainable

  • Comment

In February 2015 Gateshead City Council reluctantly agreed to discontinue two support services to make savings of £245,000 per annum.


  • Project: Supporting independence service
  • Objectives: To transform two partially funded, mutually dependant services into one financially sustainable service
  • Timescale: 12 months
  • Cost to authority: Year 1: £60,000; year 2: £50,000; self-financing by April 2018
  • Number of staff working on project: Eight management – 68 promoting and implementing
  • Outcomes: Almost all users moved to paying for service; service is now sustainable
  • Officer contact details: Victoria Lamb

The two services were the older peoples’ support service (OPSS), funded by the council, and the home support service (HSS), paid for by the customer.

Lgc awards logo 2017

Lgc awards logo 2017

Shortlisted for the business transformation award

The loss of these two services would have resulted in 463 old people in Gateshead no longer receiving the support they needed to remain independent in their homes. It would also have meant 60 hardworking and committed staff would lose their jobs.

victoria lamb

victoria lamb

Victoria Lamb

After a great deal of planning, the idea of merging the two services together to form one profit-generating service was agreed and we began working on the supporting independence service.

In consultations our customers identified our support as the sole enabler for them to remain living independently. The decision to discontinue the existing services would be counterproductive as many of our customers would have no option but to seek support through care packages that would cost the authority a vast amount more in the long run.

Stopping the services would have had a detrimental impact on our customer’s quality of life, independence, confidence and happiness. The ultimate purpose of the project was to develop our two mutually dependent, partially funded services into one combined, profit-generating service, which allowed for more flexibility and meant we could continue to provide a much-needed service to some of Gateshead’s most vulnerable residents.

In the face of unprecedented austerity, the council had no choice other than to make some challenging decisions that would dramatically impact on some of its most disadvantaged residents but we recognised the important role we play in the quality of life our customers have and we felt that we had an obligation to make this project a success.

The HSS was customer-funded at £11.50 per hour. To see if there was an appetite for more people to pay for a service we introduced a contribution charge of £7.50 for OPSS customers in November 2015, after 73% of surveyed customers said they were happy to contribute. This proved successful with only 27% refusing to contribute.

In February 2016 the proposal had been agreed to merge the two together to create the supporting independence service. This provides assistance with housework, errands, laundry, spring cleaning and holds a general focus on our customer’s health and wellbeing. The cost to our customers was set at £11.50 per hour.

jason and sandy

jason and sandy

Users are satisfied with the new service

We communicated extensively with staff, customers and agencies that refer customers to us. Staff visited all of the customers to sign them up for the new service; we recognised many customers would have various queries relating to the financial implications as well as what the changes entailed. One-to-one meetings also made it more personal.

Only seven out of the 91 OPSS customers withdrew from the service as a result of the change. This left us with 456 customers transferring over to the new service on 1 April 2016.

Our business transformation strategy was a great success and we continue to gain new customers on a daily basis. Our goal was to maintain a service that allows Gateshead’s elderly community to remain independent in their own homes and we have achieved this. Since April 2016 we have had positive feedback about how delighted our customers are that we are still able to provide our much appreciated service.

Victoria Lamb, building cleaning manager, Gateshead Council


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