Business plan for social care slated

Dorset Echo: PROPOSAL: County Hall PROPOSAL: County Hall

CONCERNS have been raised over a proposed new business to run Dorset’s adult social care under county council measures to streamline services.

Members of the Adult and Community Services Overview Committee have agreed to press ahead with plans for a Local Authority Trading Company (LATC).

It would be run on a commercial basis, separate from the council, without any subsidy or support from it. An LATC has shareholdings, but the council would own 100 per cent of the shares. The idea comes after the council announced it planned to transform the way it delivers adult social care in a bid to save £7m.

But local union members say they are worried about the plans after hearing how similar schemes have failed.

Amanda Brown, Unison representative at the county council, said: “Unison understands the constraints on DCC regarding the central funds from government.

“Much needs to be done to address the funding issue and the Fair Access to Care (FACS) criteria so that our most needy and vulnerable residents get their basic needs met.

“Unfortunately DCC is being pushed into a new way of working that we are sure they would not have taken had funding not been an issue.

“Our residential homes, day centres, rehabilitation centres and re-ablement services are of exceptionally high quality and that is down to the fact that we have good quality, dedicated staff.

“An LATC may sound good but we hear from our neighbouring Unison colleagues that all is not well and that services have deteriorated and pay, terms and conditions, have too. “This is of great concern to Unison and its members and to our residents.

“The advantages of an LATC compared to outsourcing to private companies, are that they can provide services which they are not permitted to currently, and provide to a larger amount of people who do not fit the current criteria.”

Unison has said it needs to see a ‘robust business case’ alongside consultation if the council wants to go ahead with an LATC. It has also asked for staff information sessions so that they can ‘make an informed decision.’ A business case will go before cabinet for approval later this year and the earliest date it could be up and running is next April.

The LATC is part of the ‘Pathways to Independence’ programme as the council looks to save £7m to £3.8m in 2014 to 16 and £3.2m in 2015 to 16.

  • Jill Haynes, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The council-run services are highly valued by the community and generally perform at very high quality.

“If proposals for an LATC get the go-ahead in November, more people would have a greater choice and control over their care, while still remaining under council control.

“With an LATC, the council can provide care services to people who fund their own care as well as people with personal budgets and direct payments, something we are not allowed to do at present.

“In the current financial climate, we are looking to do things differently to protect services for the future.”

The council did not wish to make any further comment regarding Unison’s concerns.

Problems with LATCs

Unison says it is worried after a number of other LATCs failed.

Chelsea Care, set up by Kensington and Chelsea Council, went into liquidation in 2011 when the council refused to inject further capital.

One of the biggest projected savings was through an ‘employment model’ which saw all staff on zero-hours contracts. A working group investigated to find that ‘insufficient vetting of the business plan’ had been a ‘fundamental mistake’.

In 2012, Stockport Council brought many services back in-house after its LATC, Individual Solutions SK did not produce value for money.

It was also investigated for fraud after making a £4.7m loss.

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