Sunderland City Council is changing the way care services are delivered to make sure people across the city continue to receive the best possible adult social care.
The council has set up its former in-house adult social care service as a local authority trading company in a bid to protect frontline services for vulnerable people.
Changes in Government legislation mean that increasingly people are receiving personal budgets so they can shop around for services from a wide range of providers.
This puts directly provided council services at a disadvantage because they are not allowed to trade with customers in this way. But as a local authority trading company, Sunderland Care and Support can trade with the public and sell its services and compete on the open market.
This new arrangement will allow more people to benefit from the service by freeing the company to expand and provide care services to people with personal budgets and direct payments - something the council is not allowed to do.
As a company, Sunderland Care and Support will also be able to generate income from sources not accessible to the council, provide more customer driven services and be more flexible to people's needs.
Sunderland Care and Support will offer services to more than 6,000 customers across 16 services including supported living schemes, day centres and short break care services.
Other services transferring include Farmborough Court Intermediate Care Centre Sunderland Telecare, the Reablement at Home service and Community Equipment service.
Councillor Harry Trueman, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "This is about the council trying to protect frontline services to vulnerable people by finding different ways of delivering services in the face of enormous Government reductions in public sector funding. This new approach will safeguard care services to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
"It's another example of how we're looking to do things differently to protect services for the future, like we have already done with Sunderland Live and we're in the process of doing with sport and leisure."
"We recognised early on the need to do everything we can to protect care and support and this is why we have gone down the route of creating a local authority company."
Nine hundred council employees have transferred to the new company which will have its own budget of £33m.
The company will share the same values and ethos as the council. It will be wholly owned by the council and its board includes three councillors, Cllr Anne Lawson, Cllr Jill Fletcher and Cllr Amy Wilson.
Councillor Graeme Miller, Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services, said: "Transferring adult social care services into a local authority trading company gives people greater choice over the support they get, so their care can be tailored to their needs.
"Our key priority is sustaining and improving the high quality support we already provide to people using our services as well as those who may do so in future. Transferring our services gives us the best chance of achieving this."
One long-standing customer who is right behind the changes is Sunderland resident Beverley Brown who has been attending Washington Community Resource Centre for the last five years.
She said: "The service has helped me become independent and is always there for me - especially when I'm having a rough time. I'm very proud that this company has been set up to ensure the people who help and support me can continue to do so. I know because of the people who work in it that it will be a great success."
Philip Foster has been appointed as Chief Operating Officer to run the new company after spending over 32 years working in the council in a senior position managing a wide range of care and support services.
He said: "We're determined to build on our success as a social care provider and I'm delighted we now have the opportunity to grow and develop new and improved services. This will mean we can offer more support options and activities for people using our services and the wider community.
"Our services will support people to be independent by building on their strengths and providing support where and when they need it, so they can stay safe and well and carrying on playing a part in their community."
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