Cheshire East Council is cutting nearly 40 social worker posts and recruiting unqualified workers in a restructure of its adult safeguarding services.
Union officials have raised concerns about the impact on the workloads of remaining practitioners at the new unitary authority, formed after Cheshire Council was discontinued last April.
Voluntary redundancy is being offered to practitioners in adults’ services as the council finalises plans to shed 37 of the 143 full-time posts, while unqualified support workers are being recruited “to more accurately meet demand”.
An additional 12 social worker posts are being created in children’s services, however, and staff are being offered redeployment.
Unison officials have been meeting managers at the council every fortnight to discuss the plans. “Our main concern is that the social workers who are left might find it more difficult to cope with their caseloads and deliver high quality services to the community,” said Pat Barlow, regional officer for Unison in north west England.
“We’re getting assurances from management that that won’t be the case, but we haven’t seen the full details of the restructure yet.”
A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said managers were committed to the voluntary redundancy programme and had received no formal objections from unions.
“We are doing everything we reasonably can to avoid the need for compulsory redundancies.”
The spokesperson added: “We are undertaking a redesign of the way we deliver social care in Cheshire East which involves redefining the role of safeguarding vulnerable adults.
“To ensure a sustainable future, we needed to analyse new and existing customer demand. The conclusion of this work was to realign the structure and number of staff at all grades to more accurately meet demand.”
The spokesperson said that, although the number of social worker posts in adults’ services was being reduced, “we are confident that this process reinforces the importance of social workers and promotes the safety of vulnerable adults”.