Care services minister Ivan Lewis has stepped into the growing crisis surrounding adult social care in Rochdale.
Lewis visited Rochdale service users at the invitation of Labour party parliamentary candidate Simon Danczuk just before the local elections. He said he was so concerned about examples of poor care that he would ask the Commission for Social Care Inspection about the progress of the town’s adult care services.
The CSCI downgraded the council from two stars to one in December last year, after which the council’s head of adult services, Stephen Netherwood, took early retirement.
An interim director of social care, Jim Wilson, has been appointed for up to two years to oversee a programme of change. This includes the introduction of a short-term and re-ablement service for home support and the transfer of remaining home care services to the private sector.
But in a leaked e-mail, council cabinet member for health and social care Dale Mulgrew – who said the privatisation should be completed by September – stated the changes meant staff had “started to leave in droves”.
Mulgrew refused to comment on the leak, but said the service was coping, adding: “Everything is working satisfactorily, although it is challenging.”
But Rochdale Unison local government branch, which has campaigned against home-care privatisation, said the situation was very difficult, with morale “at an all-time low”. Assistant branch secretary Maureen Howarth said: “We know management is finding it difficult to run the service, and I am expecting that situation to get worse.”
Danczuk said the leaked e-mail was an admission that adult care services were in a “very perilous position”, and said staff losses were having “an adverse impact on service users”.
Lewis said the government was investing £150m over three years to support the transformation of adult care services in every council to a more personalised system.
He said Rochdale had received a “very generous” settlement from the government, and added: “This is not a problem caused by insufficient funding. Rochdale has the money – the problem is, the money is not being spent wisely.
“The fault lies with poor-quality leadership and it is important the council gets its act together. It is a matter of accepting what is wrong, taking responsibility and putting it right.”