York elderly care to be privatised

SOCIAL services bosses in York are to privatise part of their care for the elderly, in a move that will affect nearly 700 residents and 75 staff.

City of York Council plans to outsource its “reablement” services, which help residents regain skills or learn new ones to reduce their need for long-term home care.

The council says the shake-up would save £696,000 in the first year, and £1.25 million a year subsequently, and says the changes will allow more old people to live independent lives, at no extra cost to the public.

But Unison says the proposals have left staff “feeling demoralised and let down” and have called for a decision to be delayed, saying “meaningful consultation” has not taken place.

The move will affect 59 carers and about 16 other staff.

In York, 693 people a year would be eligible for reablement care, which sees care workers visiting elderly people in their own homes for a few weeks, to help give them the skills needed to live independently. Such programmes reduce demand for long-term or round-the-clock care.

The proposed shake-up would also abolish charges for residents, although only a minority currently pay in any case.

Pete Dwyer, the council’s director for adults, children and education, said: “The opportunity to double the size of this important service without incurring additional costs while still affording employment protection to existing staff has to be seriously considered.” Assistant director Anne Bygrave said in a written report that current carers will be able to transfer to the new provider or apply for redundancy, and said the quality of care under outside providers would not change.

Her report, which will go before the council’s ruling executive next Tuesday, says the rising number of people living into old age will place extra demand on the council.

The service currently costs the council £1.39 million a year, for about 503 hours a week of contact time with residents. Estimates based on population changes suggest it needs to be able to provide 1,012 hours a week.

Ms Bygrave’s report says outsourcing the service could allow the extra demand to be met, while costing the public purse £80,000 a year less.

Jonathan Morley, the council’s executive member for health and adult social services, said: “As the city’s age profile continues to change, there will be ever increasing pressures on the adult social care budget so it is important that we look at opportunities to manage demand.”

Tracey Simpson-Laing, Labour’s housing and adult social services spokeswoman, said: “This is the start of the coalition’s national, and Lib Dems’ local, drastic cuts to York services and residents’ everyday lives.”