Unison asks Welsh Government to intervene in row where Labour council is privatising what remains of its home care service
Wales’ biggest trade union has written to Deputy Minister for Social Care Julie Morgan asking her to intervene in a row over the decision of a Labour-controlled council to privatise the remaining proportion of “in house” homecare.
In his letter, Unison Cymru’s head of bargaining and campaigns Simon Dunn states: “I am writing to request a Welsh Government intervention to pause the actions arising from a decision of Rhondda Cynon Taf’s cabinet to outsource the remaining 10% of ‘in house’ home care to the private sector.
“The decision, taken on October 23, was made without proper consultation with trades unions, those who receive home care or their families and on, at best, sketchy financial information. Following the decision, care workers who were lobbying the council, were in tears and those whose loved ones were in receipt of care, were anxious and upset.
“We understand the concern about a projected £35m shortfall in next years’ budgets. However, Unison believes this to have been an ill thought out, hasty decision which will leave the council unable to respond to future failings of private sector providers, such as we have seen elsewhere in Wales.
“The decision appears to fly in the face of the Rebalancing Care and Support Act, which specifically wants to rebalance care provision towards the public sector.
“The way in which the decision was made also goes against the spirit of the Social Partnership and Procurement Act. The Act directs in scope employers to try to seek agreement with trades unions. Peter Crews, the Unison branch secretary for Cynon Taf Local Government branch, spoke to the cabinet members and pleaded for a deferral of the decision to allow alternatives to the proposal to be explored with trades unions and possibly APSE (The Association of Public Service Excellence).
“This was rejected. Mr Crews told the cabinet that, he was surprised to hear that efficiency was the reason for the proposals, since no officer of the council had discussed any concerns about efficiency of the in house provision, or ideas to make improvements.
“In the light of this shocking decision, we ask that the Welsh Government intervenes to allow time for alternative approaches to be explored. The prospect of a dispute is not something trades unions would relish, but the hurt and anger felt by care workers who chanted ‘it started with a clap and ended with a slap’ tells you all you need to know about how home care workers will want to respond.”
Justifying the decision, Cllr Gareth Caple, the council’s cabinet member for health and social care, said: “These officer proposals seek to respond to increasing demand for long-term home care, and address issues of capacity experienced by all providers. This revised approach aims to achieve a sustainable model that in no way reduces the availability of the service – rather, it would enable long-term commissioning arrangements to be improved, enhancing the experience of service users and home care workers.
“Through this new approach, the council will continue to support people to be as independent as possible by continuing to provide an in-house reablement and intermediate care service.
“It’s important to note that the council delivers just a small proportion of the long-term home care provision in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and the change would see the remaining 10% transfer to external providers. Reablement and intermediate care services through the council’s ‘Support@Home’ service will continue to be provided by the council.
“Through these plans, the council will ensure that any new commissioned service is delivered on the basis of geographical zones. This will improve the overall efficiency of the service, helping staff members who currently operate across wider geographical areas that require longer travel times between calls.
“The proposals will allow a more coordinated approach that reduces staff travel time – increasing the time spent providing care in people’s homes and having a positive impact on staff recruitment and retention.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Deputy Minister for Social Services has received the letter and will respond in due course.”
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