£1m deal eases fears over Neath Port Talbot care services

FEARS that home care services for vulnerable residents will be privatised have been eased after a £1million deal was struck by council bosses and workers.

The savings plan means the Neath Port Talbot service, which allows elderly and disabled people to live in their own home rather than in a hospital or care home setting, will continue to be delivered by the council.

Social services chiefs say the people who benefit from the service will not see any change despite the huge savings that had to be achieved to avoid turning to an outside provider, with the implications that would have entitled for council care workers.

Social services director Tony Clements said: “We are talking to staff and giving the message, and they are very positive about this.

“They are very determined that we should sustain this level of saving beyond this next couple of years.”

The £1 million saving is around one-sixth of the home care service’s total budget. A report going to cabinet next Wednesday says more than £400,000 will be saved through the workforce strategy agreed with staff and unions. Managing sickness levels has added another £200,000 towards the target.

Another £100,000 will be saved through other measures. Cabinet members will be asked to approve a programme of work to improve the service and make cash savings. Mr Clements said the programme was carried out by a review team made up of key home care and support staff, along with an adviser.

“As part of the analysis the team spoke to more than 100 service users to find out what matters to them,” he said.

“It was clear from the responses that the quality of the service is not in question and that continuity in the personnel who provide care is high up the list of service users’ priorities.”

Staff were also asked about what they thought most wasted their time, resulting in the scrapping of old paper systems for rotas and staff payments, which will be done electronically instead.

Council leader Ali Thomas said: “After talking to service users, we recognise our home care service is of a high quality and greatly valued by those who receive it. We also believe our service is the best at dealing with the more complex needs of the community.

“We have to be realistic about the fact that we will not be able to afford to keep the service in-house unless efficiency savings can be made. But we realise investment is needed now in order for us to make savings in the long term.

“The progress to date is proof of the commitment of the council, the trade unions and our home care staff to making this review work. I am confident that if we continue to work together we can make the necessary savings to keep the service in-house.”