Union in challenge over debate on Swansea health plans

UNISON bosses have laid down a challenge to council chiefs to openly debate their plans for the possible closure of a Swansea care facility. They have made the call in the wake of a heated meeting over Earlsmoor in Brynmill.

Carers depending on the respite unit have described it as their lifeline.

It also comes as charity Age Concern praises the council’s proposals and ”innovative approach”.

But Jack Webb, aged 78, of Grafog Street, Port Tennant, who has a disabled son and a disabled wife, who he cares for 24/7, said: “If I can’t get respite care I would rather be out of this world. My life would not be worth living.”

Swansea Council first unveiled plans in June to shake up care services in the city.

The decision was taken following an in-depth study, which suggested the traditional one-size-fits-all approach should make way for a more flexible service which can support people more effectively.

But not everyone is convinced. Unison regional organiser Glyn Jones said: “If the council was confident of their own arguments then they would have turned up at our public meeting to debate the issue with the people who matter most: the carers of older people who were there. It is an insult to those carers that they did not do so.

“However, we will offer them a second chance, but we believe there is a simple reason they will probably refuse — that they have no alternative services and this is about simple cuts.

“They can’t even get their figures right. They reported to the media recently that occupancy levels were just over 50 per cent when the latest figures are that they are nearly 75 per cent, and this is in the context of a deliberate rundown of the service which can be reversed.”

During the past year alone, a total of £722,300 was spent on the running costs of the Brynmill facility.

Council figures show that between April 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008, a total of 136 older people relied on the respite services in Earlsmoor on 667 occasions — meanwhile its occupancy levels stood at 56 per cent.

Unison has appealed for everyone to attend the council’s public access social care committee meeting tomorrow morning at 10.30am to get their voices heard.

Swansea Council, which has pledged to offer residential respite care to those who need it, said it had now won the backing of Age Concern Swansea in its plans to transform the care services available.

Mary Pitson, director of Age Concern Swansea, said the organisation supported giving people greater choice about the way they received respite care.

She added: “This is a very innovative approach by the council to consider a variety of options, and be available where it is needed.”