Day centre staff face pay and job cuts, finds Unison

Staff warn personal budgets are being used to cut back on day centre provision, limiting choice for service users, finds University of Birmingham research for Unison.

Day care staff are facing pay and job cuts and redeployment as councils close centres on the back of budget cuts and the implementation of personal budgets, research for Unison has found.

Over half of day centre staff (55%) surveyed by the University of Birmingham said they had witnessed pay and conditions changes, such as reductions in holiday and sick pay, while over a third had seen changes in staff numbers, including through compulsory redundancies. Two-thirds of the 123 Unison members questioned said there had been changes to staff roles, with many reporting that employees had been moved from specialised into generic roles or redeployed into more demanding or less well-paid roles.

The changes reflect high levels of day centre closures, with 56% of respondents saying that centres had closed in their areas. Many respondents drew a link between the impact of personal budgets and day centre closures, either because personal budget holders were choosing not to use day centres or because they could not afford to use them because their budgets were insufficient.

One respondent said personal budgets had “given management the excuse to close day centres”, while another said budgets were a “smokescreen for cuts and closures”. However, other respondents were optimistic that personal budgets could boost user choice.

Some of the social care staff surveyed said that day services were being moved to multi-use centres and that eligibility requirements had become more restrictive in recent years, while others reported that charges for service users had been introduced or increased.

The report, by Dr Catherine Needham, concluded that the personalisation agenda could be undermined by the closure of day centres since this might limit choice for service users. But it added that the members polled were not a representative sample of those working in day centres and that disgruntled employees may have been more likely to take part in the online survey.

Jill Manthorpe, director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London, said: “It has long been predicted that personal budgets would be a massive change for day centres. While there may be negatives, there may be improvements too. It would be useful to see if staff felt they had been prepared for the changes as that would be reassuring.”

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