200 Social Care Jobs To Be Axed

More than 200 members of Suffolk’s social care staff will have to find work in the private sector when the county council contracts out services in its old people’s homes. Up to 156 staff, the equivalent of 83 full time posts, will be lost when the county follows the lead of other authorities and stops providing respite and day care services in its 14 homes. Another 63 members of staff, equivalent to 30 full time posts, will be lost if Cherryfields respite residential home in Bramford – which the council leases – is closed.

The council announced it was reviewing options for the future of the home – one of which is closure. Ann Vinden, Head of Local Government for Unison in the East of England, said there was “a great deal of concern” among union members not just for their jobs but also for the vital services being provided for vulnerable people in Suffolk.

Earlier in the summer, the council’s all-Tory executive voted to keep control of its care homes but to seek outside contractors to provide the services.

The Labour Party, using its powers to call in reports, has forced a delay until next month’s full meeting of the county council has debated the issue.

In a report to next month’s county executive, the council’s director of adult care and community services Graham Gatehouse insists respite services for older people, whether residential or day care, remain central to the council’s strategy to enable people to remain in their own homes.

However he says: “Day services provided by the council are, on average, more costly to run than purchasing the equivalent services from independent providers. It is possible that care could be provided to more people if the council did not directly provide these services.”

The council has 14 day centres, 12 of which are situated in residential care homes. There are more than 1,000 in-house day sessions helping 860 elderly people which cost £35 per session for the council to provide. The equivalent cost in private care homes is £24 a session.

Cherryfields, the only residential home in Suffolk dedicated solely to providing respite care, is staffed by the county council but owned by Mid Suffolk District Council.

Running costs are £500,000 a year and Mr Gatehouse says “up to three times as many people” could be provided with an equivalent service for the same amount of cash in the private sector.

But Liberal Democrat county councillor John Field hit out at the possible closure of Cherryfields: “The standard of respite and day care provided there is extremely high – to lose it will be a major blow. The council needs be looking at cutting bureaucracy rather than front line services.”

Rosemary Clarke, the assistant portfolio holder for adult and community services, said a shortage of care workers in Suffolk made her confident that if the council confirmed the involvement of the private sector in its homes, most of the affected 200 staff would find employment.

A final decision will be made by the executive on November 28.