Plans to Outsource Remaining Council-Run Home Care in Rhondda Cynon Taf to Private Providers Will Go Ahead Despite Concerns
Plans to outsource the remaining council-run long-term home care in Rhondda Cynon Taf to private providers will go ahead and will not go back to decision makers to be reconsidered despite concerns about the lack of scrutiny and consultation.
Three councillors had used the “call-in” procedure to get the council to look again at the plans which drew opposition from trade unions and opposition councillors.
Plaid Cymru councillor Karen Morgan, independent councillor Cathy Lisles and Conservative councillor Karl Johnson signed the call-in which went before a special meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday, October 31 but the committee voted not to send it back to cabinet for reconsideration.
The three councillors signed the call-in because of concerns over a lack of consultation, a lack of scrutiny before the decision was taken, a lack of information over any potential savings, the need to consider the positive and negative impacts and the need to hold decision makers to account.
The reasons for the call-in included “no consultation with staff, trade unions, service users or the public prior to cabinet adopting a major change in policy, i.e. commissioning 100% of the long-term homecare service, despite the council’s public participation strategy claiming it values the users voice and the reasons for doing so being good practice”.
Another reason was that “there has been no opportunity for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee or the Community Services Scrutiny Committee to pre-scrutinise the proposal before cabinet made the decision. Until the cabinet member put out a press statement a few days before cabinet considered the proposal no other members knew that such a matter was even being considered”.
A third reason was no precise information given as to the potential for budget savings, however the proposal has been described as cost effective.
The councillors who called it in also said that “there is a need to gain a better understanding of the potential impact of the decision both positive and negative,” and that “there is an obvious need to hold cabinet to account and pre-scrutinise decisions that affect our constituents and staff.”
On Monday, October 23, cabinet approved the plans to outsource the remaining 10% of its long term home care to private providers with all care packages kept and eligible staff employed by Support@Home to provide long-term home care transferring to the new service provider, which will award a new contract under transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) – or TUPE – arrangements
It agreed to the protection of membership for staff within the local
government pension scheme to be factored into the procurement
process to be taken forward, the recognition of trade unions to be factored into the procurement process to be taken forward and that no compulsory redundancies are taken forward through the implementation of these proposals.
Cabinet also agreed to keep all its reablement and intermediate care in house.
What the trade unions had to say
Peter Crews from the trade union Unison said he does not envy the work councillors have to do with the budget crisis but that “this is fundamentally about the total lack of consultation both with trade unions and with service users.”
He said it’s about the process, the lack of detail and the lack of consultation and said: “If this council wants to talk to us about reconfiguring a service, come and talk to the trade unions. We have made a commitment to this council to work with you not against you but there is no way we can stand aside while this goes ahead.”
Craig Jones from the GMB questioned some of the finances in the report saying they don’t make sense adding that they’re only supplied with average hourly costs.
He said they’re giving the private sector 772,564 hours and if that’s multiplied by their average costs it comes to £16,849,620 but the budget is only £13.412m and that these prices would go up but council officer Paul Griffiths said the overall budget is £21.5m across the internal and private services.
The cabinet report said the hourly rate of the council’s commissioned external providers is estimated to be £21.81 per hour on average and the council’s in-house long-term home care service being estimated at £38.04 per hour.
The response of decision makers
Neil Ellliot, the interim director of social services at the council, said the positive impact is that people will continue to be supported to be as independent and safe as possible and there will be better value, more cost-effective and sustainable services without reducing the availability of services provided.
He also said it would protect front-line care jobs and any new services commissioned will be delivered in new geographical zones improving the overall efficiency of the service by cutting down on travel and there will be an outcome based approach to allow the service to support people in the community.
He also said he believes the positive impacts outweigh the negative impacts all of which can be mitigated.
Cabinet member for health and social care Councillor Gareth Caple said: “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.”
He said the council would continue to support people to be as independent as possible by continuing to provide the intermediate/reablement service. He acknowledged it’s a “difficult decision” and that he is “acutely aware of the concerns raised which are being addressed.”
But he said it would see them continue to deliver all intermediate and reablement care in house, make the sector more resilient and that it should improve staff recruitment and retention and he was satisfied that it would have no impact on the level of care.
Council officer Paul Griffiths said they’ve calculated a financial impact of £1.5m but that they may be looking at this as a cost avoidance rather than a cost saving because of things like increases in inflation and increased demand.
He also said that the option to take back all long-term home care in house was discounted from a financial perspective as it is estimated to cost £12.5m a year in the context of a projected total budget gap for the council of £35m next year.
The views of councillors
Councillor Mike Powell, a committee member, asked that if 200 staff being affected isn’t considered a key decision then how many employees do need to be affected?
He said: “This is a decision which should’ve gone to scrutiny. It didn’t. This is the opportunity that we have to say ‘let’s scrutinise it’ and we could all be happy as councillors that the correct decision has been made.”
He added that committee members are asking questions which would have gone through scrutiny and the meeting is not to scrutinise it but whether or not it needs to be scrutinised.
Councillor Scott Emanuel, another committee member, said it’s clear to him that given the current financial environment, bringing the long-term home care service back in house fully is not an option.
Councillor Karen Morgan, one of those councillors who signed the call-in, said: “The volume of questions that have been asked clearly showed the need for further scrutiny.”
She said this was a key big decision and she said that there was plenty of time for consultation yet this has not been done, adding that no one who has spoken to her about it supports the proposal.
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