Directors of social services in Wales are refusing to rule out job losses as they attempt to tackle the funding crisis hitting their departments.
Back-office staff and social care workers in family centres and other preventive services are most at risk, according to the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru.
Bruce McLernon took over as president of ADSS Cymru last week shortly after the Welsh assembly government learned it must make savings of £185m, which could be deferred until 2011-12.
In an interview with Community Care, McLernon refused to speculate on the number of redundancies but stressed that frontline social work jobs would be protected.
“Frontline social work and care assessment roles – those are the areas we’re looking to protect,” he said.
“But we’re not sure if we can continue doing all the preventive work in family centres and day centres. We know it’s short-termism but that’s what we’re faced with.”
Unison warned of up to 20,000 job losses across the public sector in Wales if the UK government went ahead with plans to slash government department budgets by 25%.
Peter Crews, branch secretary of Unison in Rhondda Cynon Taff, said the union would work with employers to find a solution but would consider balloting members for industrial action if councils “went for the easy option of mass redundancies and privatising services”.
McLernon, director of social care, health and housing at Carmarthenshire Council, said much would depend on the UK government’s spending review this autumn.
“If we’re talking about efficiency savings of 8-10% then we might be able to protect jobs, but if it’s 20%, that will lead to job losses,” he said.
McLernon was speaking after the National Social Services Conference in Llandudno, where deputy minister for social services, Gwenda Thomas, told delegates that social care in Wales “faces an unprecedented challenge”.
She said the Welsh assembly government “was extremely concerned” that last month’s emergency budget “will hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society the hardest”, and called on directors to deliver “unified and integrated social services”.
Referring to the number of Welsh local authorities, she added: “Wales is too small to do everything in social services 22 times.”