Up to 50 jobs are at risk at a trading company which delivers adult social care services for three local authorities.
Tricuro, which is jointly owned by Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole councils, wants to make savings totalling £2.8 million in 2018-19 across a range of services, including reablement and day services.
It is looking to save £1.6 million from services it delivers for Dorset council, and £1.2 million from those for Bournemouth. Poole is not seeking any savings in 2018-19. Most of the jobs at risk are frontline social care, management and administration posts.
Major savings are tabled to come from a redesign of Dorset’s reablement support service and a “transformation” of its day services, which will be subject to public consultation, while staff cuts in Bournemouth’s reablement services have also been proposed.
Unison South West regional organiser Janine Miller said cuts to reablement services “will have a direct impact on bed blocking in the NHS with more patients kept unnecessarily in hospital as they cannot be given support to help them recover at home”.
However, Tricuro managing director Alison Waller said the proposed changes in Dorset would affect back office and management functions, and not “the capacity of our reablement workers and therefore our operational delivery”.
Bournemouth aimed to commission packages of care and support for clients ready to be discharged from the reablement service from the independent sector “at lesser cost”, she said, to “ensure the reablement service is a targeted service”.
Waller said Tricuro was looking to offer affected staff the opportunity to move into alternative roles and would “support any training and development that will be required”.
She added: “We anticipate the number of people facing redundancy will reduce as a result of the consultation and the measures we have put in place.”
A formal 30-day consultation on the proposals runs until 6 February.
In a letter to staff, Waller said Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole councils were “facing unprecedented funding pressures”.
The move comes less than a year after Tricuro pushed through changes to the terms and conditions of hundreds of staff, part of plans to address an “unavoidable” £1.3m cost pressure, in the face of opposition from Unison. An employment tribunal scheduled for July 2018 will hear claims relating to this.
Tricuro was established as a local authority trading company in July 2015. Around 1,200 staff were transferred into the company and councillors said the move would save £8.9m over five years. It relies on the three councils for most of its income, with Dorset accounting for around 70%.
Waller said it was expected at the time of its launch that Tricuro would “raise external income”.
“However, since its launch the financial circumstances of its three shareholders has significantly changed and in response to this the company has been required to deliver substantial savings,” she added.
“Our shareholders continue to have ongoing financial pressures, hence the requirement to make further savings and the current programme of changes we are delivering.”
She said Tricuro was projecting external income of around £800,000 for 2017-18, which “helps to partly mitigate ongoing staffing costs but has also enabled investment”.
Unison’s Miller said the three councils should consider taking their services back in-house.
“In many areas, Tricuro is already struggling to recruit staff due to the very low pay and nature of the work. We have been visiting lots of residential homes and staff tell us the same things – not enough staff, not enough time to care for residents with complex needs, different agency staff on shifts with little previous experience leaving residents alone with nothing to do but stare at blank walls.
”Unison is calling on Tricuro and its local authority shareholders to prioritise funding for social care, use the social care precept for adult care services and consider taking these services back in house. Tricuro must engage with Unison during this consultation and work with us to find alternatives to cutting jobs and frontline services.”
The news comes as the nine local authorities in Dorset continue to discuss a proposed reorganisation and merger to create two new unitary authorities. Under the ‘Future Dorset’ proposals, which aim to save more than £100 million in the first six years, Dorset council would cease and Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch councils would merge.
The “case for change” which supports the proposals states that “significant budget gaps” are anticipated in adult care services in the coming years.
The plans were given initial backing by the government in November but were rejected by Christchurch residents in an advisory poll before Christmas.
‘Extend Tricuro approach’
In a subsequent proposal to the government, Christchurch council has suggested the Tricuro approach be extended to “all adult services” in Dorset, and a similar approach taken to delivering children’s services.
Christchurch said the trading company approach had “proven successful in contributing to efficiency and saving money”, and had “created an opportunity to generate income through trading, [and] creates a commercially focused organisation that can have the flexibility of a company, and strengthens a challenging supplier market”.
“An extension for this approach for services would be possible where there is a high level of spend and therefore an opportunity to benefit from economies of scale – children’s services might be an example. Further elements of adult services with the additional children’s services would drive down cost and act as a catalyst for service transformation to improve outcomes.”
In 2017-18 Bournemouth raised its council tax by almost 5%, 3% of which was the specific social care precept, generating an extra £4 million.
However, its funding from government was cut by £6.9 million and it said it also needed a further £8.2 million “to cover cost and demographic pressures” in adults’ and children’s social care.
The council allocated an extra £9 million to adults’ and children’s social care in 2017-18. These services accounted for about 75% of its total budget – a proportion predicted to rise to 78% in 2019-20 – with more than 40% assigned to adult social care alone.
Bournemouth council’s medium-term financial plan stated that the 2001 Census found that 26% of its population had a ‘long-term health problem or disability’ and that the ageing demographic within the city meant this was likely to rise.