North East Wales

Jobs at risk in home care privatisation plan at Wrexham

A union is fighting plans by Wrexham council to transfer its home care provision to the private sector.

More than 50 jobs could go if the proposals are approved.

Affected staff will be offered alternative jobs or voluntary redundancy, the council says.

But union officials claim the changes would make the council the first to completely privatise home care in Wales and say service users should be consulted.

The council wants to focus on giving short-term support to patients so they can remain at home, rather than become "bed-blockers" in hospital.

It hopes to transfer long-term care to independent firms.

Unison claims that up to 70 jobs are at risk and that the plans are disappointing in light of the recent collapse of Southern Cross care homes.

'Proper scrutiny'

Steve Hibbert, Unison branch secretary for Wrexham, said he supported what the council was aiming to do with short-term care for its elderly patients, but questioned the decision not to consult those who use the service.

He told BBC Wales: "I would like to see some sort of public consultation involving the families of service users or at least some proper scrutiny from councillors.

"At the moment about 80% of home care in the county is already provided by the private sector but that 20% provided by the public sector steps in when private contracts fail or when contractors do not turn up regularly.

"There is also the issue of how many jobs are actually affected. The paperwork identifies over 1,400 hours, with 50 posts as a best case estimate, but in reality lots of home carers work on low hour contracts, sometimes just eight or ten hours a week, in which case, it affects many more."

He added that despite saving considerable money for the NHS, the new system would only see a 10% contribution from the health service for the cost.

Phil Gilroy, head of adult services at Wrexham council, confirmed the authority was consulting with staff.

He said: "Currently, over 80% of home care is provided by the independent sector, with regular contract monitoring arrangements, including discussions with people using the services, identifying very high satisfaction levels.

Front line

"The plans for the development of the service have been discussed in both scrutiny committee and executive board as part of the social services annual report and business plan and also as part of the service review process that the council has put in place to manage the available budget."

He added that the changes were in line with Welsh Government policy but should only affect 50 front line and management posts.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We cannot interfere in the contractual arrangements that the council makes with its care providers.

"The Welsh Government has issued statutory guidance on commissioning social services and we expect Wrexham council to comply with its requirements.

"In particular it must consult with users of care and manage the effective transition of their care arrangements."

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