Council ‘Bids To Gag Care Home Workers’

A gagging row has broken out over controversial plans to shut an old people’s residential home in Cardiff. The council wants to stop staff at the Iorwerth Jones home, in Llanishen, Cardiff, from speaking to the press and prevent them encouraging residents and their relatives to lobby against the closure. The council has begun a consultation, but only offered two alternatives to staff: closure of the home and its transfer to the NHS Trust for use by dementia patients, or keeping one of the four units at Iorwerth Jones open for existing residents until suitable alternative accommodation is found.

According to a proposed protocol – obtained by the Echo – which was drawn up by council officers and presented to union officials, staff MUST NOT:

  • Engage in ‘inappropriate dialogue’ with the media giving their personal opinions on the plans.
  • Attempt to influence the thinking of residents, relatives, friends or advocates on the proposals based on their own opinions.
  • Encourage residents, friends to picket, lobby or demonstrate against the closures.

Mike Payne, a full-time officer with the GMB union, said: “We’re not going to be gagged by the council. Our members are fighting for services, for the elderly residents and their jobs. This is not the open, transparent council we are told exists. They are trying to steamroller the proposals through. And the authority’s actions suggest this is a consultation where they have made the decision.”

In a report to union officials, chief adult services officer Mike Murphy said that the home had become uneconomical and expensive to maintain with costs rising by £300,000 between 2003-04 and 2005-06 as a result of increased staff costs and declining income.

The home – which has 40 bedrooms – has just 14 residents and Mr Murphy said demand for residential care across Cardiff had fallen from a peak of 887 in 2003-04 to 762 at the end of last June.

A council spokeswoman said the document was just a first draft. She said: “Cardiff council is disappointed that one of the trade unions have chosen to share a draft document. The document referred to is the initial version first draft of a protocol dealing with the complex and sensitive process of assisting staff and service users during consultation over service change.

This draft was produced at the request of the trade unions in order to clarify existing procedures for staff engagement in service change and forms part of the wider consultation with trade unions. As we are still at an early stage of discussion with union colleagues it would be inappropriate to comment further on the content of the document.”