Devon county care home jobs to be axed

CARE home staff are today reeling over Devon County Council’s revelation that it plans to cut 200 jobs from the sector, as the authority aims to shave £5 million from running costs over three years.

Unions said workers across the council’s 24 care homes would be shocked at the scale of the cuts when letters were hand-delivered to staff, residents and carers this morning.

It comes within days of the revelation that an additional 500 jobs are expected to be shed across the council’s workforce over the next two years, as part of moves to enable it to weather the economic storm.

Councillor Stuart Barker, cabinet member for adult and community services, pledged that no homes would close and said care standards would not suffer.

Already, 70 of the jobs have been axed by not renewing departing staff, and it is hoped many will be redeployed – but a number of redundancies are expected.

The council says many of those going will be in middle-management, although around 60 are expected to be carers’ posts.

The authority has extended the normal 30-day consultation to 90 days, starting next Tuesday, when the recommendations will go before cabinet.

Coun Barker said that additional training would be provided for staff where appropriate.

The move will cut the ratio of carers to residents from one for every three – the situation when the Conservative administration took over in June – to one for every six. Coun Barker said it would bring the facilities in line with national guidance after an independent review in June effectively concluded they were overstaffed.

But Unison said it would be keeping a close eye, both on the staff consultation and on the care provided to residents.

Coun Barker said Devon’s care home costs had been allowed to “escalate out of control” in the past. The process would both make savings and increase numbers of residents in the homes, by providing 30 more beds and filling existing empty ones.

In June, 530 residents were costing the council about £500,000 a week – but by the end of the efficiency process, the homes will accommodate around 650 residents at a weekly cost of about £385,000.

The council aims to cut unnecessary overheads and save £5 million over the next three years, which will be invested into social care.

It will spend £735,000 upgrading existing buildings to ensure they are fit for purpose.

The move comes after Shaw Healthcare withdrew as the preferred bidder to take control of the homes. Then, the council was told that seven of the homes were “not conducive to useful development”.

But Coun Barker said he was certain they could all be brought up to date within the allocated budget. He refused to rule out bringing in private care partners in future, and said the proposition would be more attractive to companies if the homes were refurbished.

Coun Barker said the council had to plan for an increasingly ageing demographic. He added: “I’m absolutely determined that we provide the best level of care that we can for the greatest number of people.”