Northern Ireland

NIPSA warning over Southern Health Trust move

The Southern Health Trust is to hand over its home help services to the private sector according to the public service union NIPSA.

The union is warning that the move will hit care for the elderly and could lead to a loss of jobs.

The trust has said staff will continue to commission appropriate care and no jobs will be lost.

It said this would be irrespective of whether the package is delivered by independent or directly employed staff.

Alison Millar from NIPSA said: "What our members have been told is that from the beginning of this week all of the home care domiciliary care work will be handed out to the private sector and none of the work will be retained within the Southern Trust for the care staff that work within the trust," she said.

"There may be on very rare occasions that some of the work will be kept in but certainly my understanding is that since this decision was taken a few days ago, is that none of the work has been retained in-house."

Ms Millar said union staff who had met with the Southern Trust had been told it was aimed at saving money.

"The reality of the situation is that once this happens we don't believe it will only be for the month of July," she said.

"If this is a cost saving measure for the month of July then it will be a cost-saving measure going forward.

"There are concerns for potential job losses for the staff who are already seeing an impact on themselves, but just as important is the impact on the elderly and vulnerable older people who are very worried about the future because they won't necessarily know who is coming from day-to-day."

Angela McVeigh, director of older people and primary care for the Southern Trust, said: "The trust arranges for over two million hours of domiciliary care to be provided to around 5,000 people in their own homes every year. This essential care to help people stay in their own homes is provided by either the trust's own staff or else by carers employed by a number of independent sector providers," she said.

"During the month of July the trust will be giving the first offer of new packages of care to the independent sector providers. If the independent sector providers are unable to take on the new package of care within an hour of being offered it, this will revert to trust domiciliary care services

"The trust will ensure individuals who are assessed as required domiciliary care services will continue to receive the service. Trust staff will continue to assess need and commission the appropriate care arrangements irrespective of whether the package will be delivered by independent or directly employed staff.

"There will be no job losses as a result of these changes which will be reviewed at the end of July."