Blackburn under fire over plan to outsource all adult services

Plans from Blackburn with Darwen Council to outsource its remaining in-house adult care services have sparked a row with unions. Tonight,...

Plans from Blackburn with Darwen Council to outsource its remaining in-house adult care services have sparked a row with unions.

Tonight, the council’s executive board will consider proposals to hive off the council’s services, which command a budget of £8.4m a year, to a social enterprise company. The affected services are delivered by 350 staff and include residential care, reablement home care, day services, supported housing for mental health clients and the provision of direct payments.

Care management staff will remain employed by the council, as required by law.

The council believes the move will deliver a 5% reduction in costs each year for the next three years, achieved through contractual arrangements with the enterprise.

It also said the enterprise would be more suitable for a personalised system – where users are given budgets to buy their own services – than in-house services. Currently, direct payment users are barred from purchasing care from in-house council services. Personal budget holders are permitted to purchase in-house care but this is often less affordable than care purchased from the independent sector.

The council would also want the proposed enterprise to develop a workforce of personal assistants – staff hired directly by service users to support them.

Local Unison representative Mike Booth said there had been no consultation with staff. But this assertion was rejected by the council, which said it had kept staff fully informed with details and briefings.

Booth said it was impossible for the council to launch of the social enterprise with adequate consultation and risk assessment by December this year, which he said he understood was its aim.

The council said its preferred option was for staff transferring to the enterprise to retain their council terms and conditions, and said it would insist on the company paying no less than the council.

Booth added: “We hope that those people who are providing this service will be transferred but there may be redundancies.” He said there could be a knock-on effect for employment in other council services, such as legal services, if they were no longer needed as a result of the transfer.

The proposal follows the establishment of a “care trust plus” in Blackburn earlier this year, with responsibility for commissioning all health and social care services for adults and children.

The council said the social enterprise idea would work well with the care trust plus, as the latter would be able to exert significant influence over the external market for services, including the proposed enterprise.

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