One hundred home care jobs are at risk in Bromley from cost-cutting council plans to end in-house care provision, a staff representative has warned.
Glenn Kelly, a staff representative at the south-east London council, claimed the authority was implementing plans to transfer all ongoing home care to the independent sector, where services are much cheaper, without consultation with users.
He has started a campaign to save the service, which he claims is backed by most home care staff and public service union Unison, which may take strike action if the plans are not reversed.
There are currently 146 home care staff, most of whom work part-time, serving 250 clients. About 40 jobs will be available in an expanded council reablement service, which will be ring-fenced for existing home care staff, and the council says there may be other opportunities for redeployment, such as in sheltered housing.
However, Kelly said the council had issued a call for voluntary redundancy and planned to make staff who had not been redeployed redundant in January 2011.
Councillors are due to vote on the proposal next month.
Kelly said that instead of tendering out the service and consulting on the changes, the move was being implemented by stealth, with independent care agencies taking on service users after in-house care staff left their posts. “Service users are being told their provider is being changed overnight,” he said. “They are siphoning off the work even before the council has voted on whether to keep the in-house service.”
He said this was despite 96% of users saying they were satisfied with the service in a recent survey.
The council confirmed that it expected in-house provision to decline over coming months with packages moved to other providers. A spokesperson said in-house provision was already in long-term decline, partly because users were taking up direct payments and personal budgets and spending them elsewhere. She also said there was a “mismatch” between the morning hours most staff wanted to work and the need for care.
She said people were being initially contacted by letter about proposed changes in care packages and that no one was being transferred to a new provider without a review of their needs.
Terry Rich, director of adult and community services at the council, said: “A growing elderly population and the need for more complex care packages has meant that more and more home care is provided by independent organisations and this will continue to increase. These care agencies are contracted to provide equally reliable and high quality care services as the council, but have proved far more cost-effective. Any changes are being carefully and sensitively introduced to minimise any impact on those who use these services.”