Anger as South Tyneside care workers get notices

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save three care homes in South Tyneside have accused council bosses of “demoralising” workers facing the axe.

There is anger about statutory notices issued to about 90 staff work-ing at Connolly House in Whiteleas, South Shields, Beech Street House, Jarrow, and Gerald Street House, South Shields.

Consultation over the controversial adult social care shake-up is still
ongoing, and campaigners claim the notices should not have been sent out, before a final decision on the homes is made.

But South Tyneside Council says it is legally required to issue the section 188 notices, which are not redundancies, but simply documents telling staff that consultations have started on possible redundancies.

And all such notices were distributed to workers through unions, not directly by South Tyneside Council.

But Brian Brown, of Monkton Village, Jarrow, whose 93-year-old mother-in-law, Margaret Purdon, has been a resident at Beech Street House for eight years, said: “People at the home are up in arms about this. How can they send out notices when the consultation is still continuing?

“This will just panic staff, because these letters will be taken as redundancy notices.”

Campaigners voiced their concerns at a heated meeting earlier this week of a council scrutiny committee at South Shields Town Hall.

Former councillor John Watson, who is backing the fight to save Beech Street House, criticised the council at the meeting.

He claims the social care review has been “very badly handled” and called on senior officers to “consider their positions.”

Mr Watson told the Gazette: “These section 188 notices should not have been sent out when the consultation process is still under way.

“This will only hit staff morale and serve to undermine the case for keeping the homes open, before a decision is even made.”

Mr Watson also criticised the council for only having “vague ideas” about what kind of future alternative social care arrangements could be put in place, if borough dementia unit Connolly House closes.

“I asked what the model would be, and nobody could tell me,” Mr Watson added.

Last month, cash-strapped South Tyneside Council said the cost of running all three care homes was high, and proposed one option of closing Beech Street House and Gerald Street House and maintaining Connolly House until a new unit for dementia care is built.

Plans to modernise adult social care across South Tyneside will again be discussed at another meeting of the select committee – children and young people, independent and heathy lives, which will be held at South Shields Town Hall at 3pm on Tuesday.

Coun Ernest Gibson, committee chairman, said: “In a meeting this week, we have heard from representatives from the care homes, and listened to their concerns.

“As chairman, I visited the homes and also invited relatives and carers to the town hall to hear their views or concerns.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We are carrying out extensive consultation around the future of our three residential care homes and are committed to giving residents, their families, staff, trades unions and other interested groups and individuals every opportunity to have their say on this important issue.

“All views expressed will be taken into consideration before any decisions are made. As part of the consultation process, we are legally required to issue a section 188 notice to the relevant trades unions.”