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Wigan MBC has launched a major review of the services it provides to help disabled people live independently in the...
Wigan MBC has launched a major review of the services it provides to help disabled people live independently in their own homes.

In an attempt to tackle waiting lists which are still considered unacceptably long, the council has enlisted the support of health chiefs for an ambitious bid to be in the vanguard of the new government's drive to obtain the best value for public money.

Metro assistant chief executive Frank Costello has drawn up plans for a radical investigation into how the£1.2m spent annually on providing aids and adaptations for the disabled - which includes anything from a simple grab rail to a complete house extension - is allocated, and how the service might be improved..

Despite the best efforts of overstretched occupational therapists, waiting lists remain stubbornly high, with some clients waiting for up to 15 months before they can be helped - although this represents an improvement on the situation four years ago.

In fact figures show that, with 3,800 new cases every year, Wigan has 50 per cent more people being referred for aids and adaptations than the national average. Individual case loads of occupational therapists are correspondingly higher.

It's against this background that the council has applied to be a pilot authority for the government's 'best value' scheme.

The idea is that councils should obtain the best possible value services for their citizens, taking into account quality and efficiency as well as price when awarding contracts. The government has invited councils to apply to pilot the scheme before CCT is finally scrapped.

Neil Turner, chairman of the council's new 'best value' subcommittee, said: 'Despite the valiant efforts of everyone involved, the service has fallen short of our high expectations. The aim of this investigation is to reduce waiting lists and provide a more responsive service without any further call on scarce resources.

'It will be a comprehensive review of every single aspect of the service, looking at current demand, types of equipment, methods of installation, good practice from other areas and financial systems.

'In carrying it out we feel it will offer a prime model for the government of how local councils, working in partnership with other agencies such as the health authority and the trust, can achieve best value for their citizens. It should also provide valuable lessons which will benefit other councils.'

Cllr Turner pledged that people who use the service will be actively involved in the review, and their views will be vital to its success.

The government has said it will pick just 30 schemes to pioneer its best value proposals, although more than 150 local authorities have applied to be pilots. However the council has promised to carry out the review whether it is successful in its bid or not.

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