Council Puts Recovery at the Heart of Changes To Mental Health Services Following Consultation

ADULTS suffering with mental health issues will be helped on the road to recovery with individually tailored packages of support to promote independence, under a new model of care being proposed by the Council following a recent consultation with people who use the service.

The proposals for ‘Focus House’ – Reading’s only Council-run mental health accommodation service – follows a three-month consultation earlier this year with service users, family members and staff.

Seven in 10 (69%) agreed with encouraging and supporting people to make better use of community services and support that promote recovery and independence. Many respondents also praised the commitment, experience and expertise of existing Focus House staff, and their skills in supporting residents towards independence at a speed appropriate to their needs.

Four options are being considered by the Council as part of a review to keep the service cost effective and to make it sustainable for the future, with a decision being made on Wednesday July 12th at a meeting of the Council’s Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Education Committee (ACE). The options are to close the residential care home; outsource the service to a mental health provider; maintain the service as is; or to re-model the service into a Supported Living Unit.

Council officers and Councillor Rachel Eden, Lead Member for Adult Social Care, are recommending to keep Focus House open, but to change its status from a residential care home to Supported Living accommodation, with a clear focus on a level of independence and choice to aid long-term recovery.

If agreed, the proposals mean people being cared for at Focus House (14 Castle Crescent) can remain living there, and that support would continue to be provided by trusted Council staff who residents value and are familiar with. Importantly, 24/7 care would still be available for those who need it.

The change from a Residential Care Home to a Supported Living Unit mean residents would be given individual tenancy agreements and pay rent. Residents who meet the eligibility criteria will have the charge paid by Housing Benefit.

Cllr Rachel Eden

Councillor Eden, Lead Member for Adult Social Care at Reading Borough Council said:

“Responses to the consultation by people who use the service, their families and staff are clear that the services at Focus House should support recovery and independence. One comment from the consultation was that ‘Recovery stories begin at Focus House.’  It is clear that people value the service and agree that promoting recovery and providing choice should be at the heart of any change.

“If the Committee agree with the recommendation I’m making, it will mean people can continue living at Focus House and will continue to be supported by experienced staff, but the service will develop with a real emphasis on helping people recover.

“Every Local Authority is having to review how they deliver key services in the face of the unprecedented cuts in Government funding and at a time of increased demands for Council services.

“In the case of the proposals for Focus House, the Council is not only making changes to keep it sustainable in the future, but is also helping people to live fulfilling lives.”

The full ACE Committee report – which includes consultation feedback – can be found at–Education-Committee-12-JULY-2017 (item 6).

Consultation feedback showed the importance Focus House residents and their families placed on specialist support to empower adults suffering from mental health issues. Under the proposal, current staff would be retained as they have the skills and experience to deliver the specialist service.  The team would provide care packages proportionate to  needs and service users would have the opportunity to select their own provider to meet lower level, or more general support needs as they progress along their recovery journey.

The Committee report details that there is only one other specialist mental health residential provider in Reading. This is privately owned and has limited capacity, making the Councils proposal to retain services at Focus House services even more vital.

Demand for key Council services in Reading is rising at a time of unprecedented cuts in funding for Local Government. Government funding for Reading Borough Council will have been cut by £57.5 million between 2010 and 2020.

Notes To Editors:

Amongst the services known locally as ‘Focus House,’ one element current provides a CQC registered care home, providing  24/7 support for up to 7 residents with mental health needs as they recover.  This is located at 14 Castle Crescent and is the section of the service consulted on as part of the Council review.

Focus House also provides support to people who, as part of the recovery process, have moved on to other accommodation where they are supported to live independently.

Oscar Mortali

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