Council set to outsource social services

Swindon Council last night approved proposals to move adult social workers into a social enterprise alongside community health colleagues from the local primary care trust.

Swindon Council last night approved proposals to move adult social workers into a social enterprise alongside community health colleagues from the local primary care trust.

The social enterprise will come into effect next April, providing assessment and care management for disabled and older people, adult social care services such as home care and health services such as district nursing.

Now that the plans have been given the green light, a business plan will be put together for the social enterprise. But the move was criticised by the union Unite.

A spokesperson said: “Social enterprises will have to bid for contracts and, to do that, they have to make costs competitive.’

Council and PCT staff would transfer to the new company under the same conditions as their current employment but the Unite spokesperson said these would not apply to new staff and could lead to worsening terms and conditions for staff in the long-run.

The council’s cabinet also backed proposals for the PCT’s children’s community health staff, such as health visitors, to transfer into the council to work alongside children’s social care colleagues.

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer for children’s services at BASW, said many social workers would welcome the idea of bringing together health and social work staff.

“Lots of our members talk about the benefits of actual multi-disciplinary teams rather than virtual ones.  If it’s set up to allow professionals to maintain their identity and ensure they still get their CPD needs met, and there is a culture of respect and recognition of what each other can contribute, then it could work really well,’ she said.

The council and the PCT already have integrated children’s services, which both organisations say has led to improved services.

But a paper considered by the council cabinet last night said there were also limitations under the current arrangements, under which PCT staff are seconded to the council. 

These included staff being employed by two organisations, which meant they were unable to undertake each other’s functions and led to duplication of services, and resources not being fully pooled.

The paper said the ‘”ack of flexibility means that further improvements in outcomes and efficiencies are more difficult to achieve”.

As well as changing working practices to avoid duplication, a single employer could also ensure efficiency in infrastructure and the range of buildings needed, the paper said.

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