Social workers in Fife could face significant job losses as the council attempts to slash its overall budget by £120m.
Fife Council, which has had a recruitment freeze in place since April, plans to scale back its workforce by 10-15% over the next four years through voluntary redundancy, early retirement or more flexible working.
It is estimated that the number of job losses could reach 1,800, but the council has not yet revealed how many of those will be in social work.
However, social work services at the council in eastern Scotland have been set a savings target of around £5m this year and a further £14m to 2013.
The council has already imposed a recruitment freeze, which came into effect in April, and wants to reduce the proportion of council funds it spends on wages. This currently stands at around half the budget.
A consultation has been launched but Dougie Black, regional officer for Unison, said the council’s social care workers are facing a mixture of redundancies and changes to service delivery.
He claimed the proposals under consideration include increasing the use of social work assistants and limiting the number of social workers that could achieve senior practitioner status.
The social work department confirmed it decided to limit the number of senior practitioners to around 80 as part of its initial proposals to Fife Council.
Stephen Moore, executive director of social work services, said: “Fife still has senior practitioners whose roles are highly valued, where the most skilled, the most qualified and most knowledge are targeted at the most complex and vulnerable cases in our society.”
Black added that it was “not outside the realms of possibility” that the council would decide to commission its home care service from the private sector.
“That would affect a huge number of our members,” he said. The council said no decisions had been made.
“In the last eight months we have held over five staff consultation forums, newsletters, questionnaires and open sessions for staff to meet with myself and their manager,” said Moore.
“This has given colleagues the opportunity to have their say on how we can drive efficiency, work smarter and make every pound we have work harder for the service user.”
Elizabeth Riches, deputy leader of Fife Council, said they would keep compulsory redundancies to “an absolute minimum”.
She said: “We hope that by becoming more efficient in a variety of ways they won’t be necessary but, in an uncertain financial climate, we can’t totally rule them out.
“We will continue to invest in our workforce, developing new skill sets, strengthening existing skills and knowledge and working in new and flexible ways to deliver vital services,” she added.
Plans to reduce the council’s workforce are due to be finalised by December.