Reablement success leads to social work job cuts

A council is cutting social work jobs on the back of its success in helping service users regain independence through reablement. (Image: Rex Features).

A council is cutting social work jobs off the back of its success in helping service users regain independence through reablement.

Seventy three full-time equivalent posts, including 22 registered social workers’ jobs, are to go in Hertfordshire Council’s locality older people and physical disability teams because of cuts to caseloads attributed to the county’s reablement service. The teams employed 526 people as of April 2011.

The changes, agreed at a meeting on Monday, are due to save £1.4m next year, part of a £3.4m package of annual savings delivered through reorganising the council’s adult social care functions. A further £1.6m will be saved by transferring initial assessments, brokerage, scheduled reviews and adaptations assessments to outsourcing company Serco, with 12 registered social workers due to transfer to the firm.

The reablement service, delivered by Goldsborough Home Care, has led to a 40% reduction in referrals to locality teams. The short-term service, open to most users who meet eligibility criteria, has supported 1,708 people in the past year, half of whom have needed no ongoing support after the intervention.

“As a result of this, [the council] will be able to reduce the number of locality social work teams and the staff headcount in these teams based on significantly lower caseloads,” said a paper to yesterday’s meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet.

The council said that the savings to older people and physical disability teams were also attributable to more efficient processes, such as allowing team managers more autonomy to agree care packages.

It will also save almost £0.5m by cutting 13.2 posts from its community learning disability teams, delivered though “lean and efficient processes” in relation to assessment, review, care package approvals and safeguarding. One social worker role will be cut as part of the change to the teams, which employed 176 people as of April 2011.

The council said 128 staff (109 full-time equivalent posts) were due to transfer to Serco to establish a “social care access and housing solutions service”.  As part of the shift, 74 staff have agreed to take voluntary redundancy or retire early and the council hopes there will be no compulsory redundancies.

The Serco service would be responsible for initial assessments, referring people to reablement or locality teams, arranging services for clients based on their support plans, scheduled reviews and occupational therapy assessments for adaptations.

It will be linked to an electronic marketplace to enable self-funders and personal budget holders to directly purchase care services online.

The staff will transfer in April on their council terms and conditions and Serco has agreed to allow them to maintain their local government pensions.

Serco managers with responsibility for signing off community care assessments will retain a contract with Hertfordshire Council to ensure the council fulfils its statutory assessment duties, while the authority pledged to put in place “robust measures” to monitor the Serco service.

“People who currently receive support from the county council should not notice any difference in the care they receive,” said cabinet member for health and adult care Colette Wyatt-Lowe. “The same experienced staff will continue undertaking initial assessments as they do now and qualified Hertfordshire County Council social care staff will continue to sign-off these assessments.”

“We want to give people more choice and control of their care services and think our e-marketplace will make a big difference, letting people shop online for the health and social services they need.”

More on this story

Blog: Reablement – good for service users, bad for social workers? 

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