A VALLEYS council has agreed to outsource its remaining long-term home care services to independent providers despite opposition.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s cabinet on Monday, October 23 agreed to externally commission all long-term home care from October 2024 with the aim of “securing the future resilience and sustainability of the service without reducing the level of care provided.”
This is despite opposition from the trade unions and opposition councillors who raised concerns about the plans.
The council said there are two approaches to providing domiciliary home care – reablement and intermediate care, due to continue to be provided by the council, and long-term home care.
The council’s Support@Home service delivers all reablement and intermediate care, but a much smaller proportion of long-term home care (about 10%) with most already commissioned from independent providers.
The council’s cabinet agreed to continue to deliver all reablement and intermediate care and, from October 2024, to commission all long-term home care from external home care providers, as part of a required re-tender process.
It also agreed to additional recommendations around access to the local government pension scheme, there being no compulsory redundancies and the recognition of the trade unions as part of the process at the request of the council leader Councillor Andrew Morgan.
But Plaid Cymru group leader Councillor Karen Morgan said outsourcing is just another word for privatising and that there had been no consultation.
She said she had hoped lessons would’ve been learned from the closure of the night home care services when the chief executive apologised for how staff and residents were informed.
Cllr Karen Morgan said many who had signed a petition against the proposal had raised issues about private providers, that they risk leaving people more vulnerable if they don’t get the care they need from private providers and she urged the cabinet to stop the proposal or at least allow scrutiny and consultation.
Councillor Cathy Lisles, independent, said the proposal has been poorly announced as clients were told before staff knew.
She said the council had apologised only a few months ago and said this sort of thing wouldn’t happen again but it has.
Cllr Lisles said: “This proposal has been poorly written. There has been no consultation.”
She also highlighted the need for scrutiny before a decision is made and that this had not been done.
Cllr Lisles also raised concern about what would happen if the relationship with the private provider breaks down, there are issues with the quality of care or if the private provider fails saying there might be no alternative care available for residents.
She also said there’s no information any money that is being saved and what savings are there likely to be given the protection of TUPE with the private providers potentially increasing their tender figures to pay for those terms and conditions.
Peter Crews, branch secretary for Unison in the Cwm Taf area, said: “These proposals should never have come in front of you.”
He said once these services are gone they are gone and you lose the capacity to ever take them back.
He also highlighted previous experiences with private providers who’d collapsed or walked away and added that no officer had come to Unison to talk about making the service more efficient.
Mr Crews said: “Give us the opportunity to have more discussions with you.”
He said these are the staff that worked on the front line during Covid and put their lives on the line and he urged the council to “show them some loyalty as well as they showed the community in Rhondda Cynon Taf.”
He said “there is no place for profiteering in care.”
He urged the council to give them the chance to look at this service and he understands the pressure the council is under but that this is not the way to do it.
Gareth Morgans from GMB said he is “disappointed” to have to be there today and that he “expected better” from his local authority.
He said he’s disappointed with the lack of consultation and said that figures in the report “just don’t add up.”
Mr Morgans said the private companies don’t recognise trade unions and they don’t want them around.
He said he wanted to dispel the “TUPE myth” as it doesn’t include pay rises and staff wouldn’t get pay rises until the minimum wage or foundation living wage catches up and said cabinet would be voting for “detriment in pay.”
He said the fact that 90% is in the private sector is a disgrace anyway and asked whey they’re making it 100%.
Mr Morgans said everyone is now in fear for their futures and asked the cabinet to defer the decision and enter into meaningful dialogue with the trade unions and service users and get an accurate report to vote on before they “throw these people to the wolves of the private sector.”
Councillor Gareth Caple, the council’s cabinet member for health and social care, said: “This revised approach aims to achieve a sustainable model that in no way reduces the availability of the service rather it would enable long term commissioning arrangements to be improved.”
He said the council would continue to support people to live as independently as possible by continuing to provide the intermediate/reablement service.
He acknowledged it’s a “difficult decision” and that he is “acutely aware of the concerns raised which are being addressed.”
But he said it would see them continue to deliver all intermediate and reablement care in house, make the sector more resilient and that it should improve staff recruitment and retention and he’s satisfied that it would have “no an impact on the level of care.”
Paul Mee, the council’s chief executive, said: “What this is not is a reduction or a cut in domiciliary care services.” And he stressed the importance of the director reviewing the service model and ensuring it’s fit for purpose.
Neil Elliott, the director of social services, said it’s “extremely difficult” given the numbers of staff and people who use their services to get information out at one time so everyone is treated first in terms of staff.
He said they tried to contact staff through managers and the mobile app to ask staff to look at their emails and letters but he apologised that some service users were aware before the staff.
Under the proposals, all care packages will be kept while eligible staff employed by Support@Home to provide long-term home care will transfer to the new service provider, which will award a new contract under transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) or TUPE arrangements.
The council said this ensures continuity of support for service users, and job security for staff with the terms and conditions of their current contracts protected, along with membership of the local government pension scheme