Plan to outsource social services at Swansea

Swansea council is drawing up plans which could see adult social services outsourced to save costs.

The Liberal Democrat-run authority published a document to gauge interest in running all adult social care services within the city from April 2012.

The plans have been criticised as “mass privatisation” by Labour.

But Cabinet member councillor Nick Tregoning says the current process is not privatisation or outsourcing.

Mr Tregoning said: “The option that I’m looking at is to put out adult social care as a social enterprise.”

The council says its document is to develop a business case for alternative means of delivering social care.

Services covered include mental health, residential homes and domiciliary care services.

‘Full outsource’

The document refers to a “full outsource of all adult social care provision”.

A contract to run such services would be worth £20m a year.

Mr Tregoning told BBC Radio Wales: “The first thing is that no decision has been taken yet.

“The only decision that has been taken is to actually put together a business case and have a look at it more closely.”

He said saving money was a “factor” but it was not “the main driving factor” in developing the proposals.

“We’re interested in pursing a social enterprise model which will benefit the staff, benefit the clients and, yes, will provide better value for money,” he said.

“As part of that, we are obliged under EU rules to ensure that we have carried out due diligence and looked at every possible aspect of this.

“We’re not the only authority that’s going down this route.”

Labour’s Swansea West AM Andrew Davies, a former assembly government finance minister, said there had already been expressions of interest from private companies, and he was “suspicious” of the plans.

Mr Tregoning has confirmed there has been “some interest” from bodies outside the council in running the services, but he could not say how much.

Mr Davies said: “The mass privatisation of adult social services has not been debated at all.

“What authority do the Liberal Democrats have to sell-off this essential service?

“There has been no discussion about privatising this in Cabinet or the council chamber or with the unions, it is certainly not in the Liberal Democrat manifesto for Swansea, where is their mandate?

“Decisions made in smoke-filled rooms are no way to run a democratically elected council.”

But Mr Tregoning said Mr Davies’s claims were untrue.

Spending cuts

Mr Tregoning said: “I’m sure Andrew would love to believe that’s true but sadly it isn’t.

“This isn’t privatisation. We’re not outsourcing it. I want it, as I said to Cabinet, to go out as a social enterprise but we actually have to put together a business case.”

A business case will be put to the council’s Cabinet, probably in the New Year.

Councils across Wales are braced for spending cuts as a result of the assembly government’s draft budget to be published on Wednesday.

Many are examining new methods of delivering services in order to try and deal with the expected shortfall, with adult social care frequently cited as one of the fastest growing pressures on their budgets.

The proposal being put forward in Swansea is the creation of a not-for-profit social enterprise, where any profit is reinvested in the community the enterprise serves.

If this option is approved by Swansea’s cabinet, it would mean around 900 council staff in areas such as residential, domiciliary and day care would transfer to the new organisation.

Swansea council argues it would retain its current rights and benefits.

The council says such a change would have the potential to save money by reducing back office functions, staff turnover, sickness levels and overtime payments.

Staff at Swansea council’s social services department took an average of 19.5 days off sick last year, it emerged last month.

An internal annual report described the figures as “substantially outside the target”.