Agenda item

REVIEW OF IN HOUSE HOMECARE SERVICE

Minutes:

Report ACS10053

 

The Portfolio Holder introduced a report providing information about the direction of travel of the in-house home care service and proposals about the future of the service contained within the Direct Care Services annual business plan.

 

The Portfolio Holder provided an overview of the report.  Following this summary, the Unison Staff Side Secretary read a statement to the Committee.  The Staff Side Secretary made a number of points:

 

·  Clients had the right to choice;

·  130 workers were facing redundancy as a result of this decision;

·  The notion that the in-house service was no longer viable was ‘a fantasy’;

·  Levels of care would be lost;

·  It did matter to clients who provided their care;

·  Agencies did not provide the same level of care as the in-house service;

·  Clients would lose the carers that they knew;

·  In the past, when a service had been privatised the Council had been undertaking the process openly and honestly but that this was not the case with this decision;

·  There had been no consultation regarding the decision;

·  The duty of the elected Councillors was to the residents.

 

The Staff Side Secretary questioned why the decision had to be taken before the outcome of the comprehensive spending review had been announced and suggested that a portion of the Council’s reserves could be utilised to protect the service.  In concluding, the staff Side Secretary urged Councillors to reject the proposal.

 

The Director ACS responded to the statement and highlighted the need to ensure that suitable care arrangements were in place for  the residents of Bromley in order to meet increasing demand for services and  also to be able to respond to the challenges of the future 

 

The Assistant Director (Care Services) provided an overview of the report and explained to the Committee that in Bromley approximately 13,000 hours per week of care were provided by the independent sector, compared to the  3,000 hours of care provided by the in-house service.  The personalisation agenda had a significant impact on the service due to the increasing number of people receiving personal budgets.  The resources available were increasingly limited and the available resources had to be used wisely.  The Assistant Director (Care Services) stressed that the proposed changes would not affect the pattern of care provided to service users.

 

A Member questioned whether the 30% higher costs of the in house home care service solely related to staff salaries or other issues.  The Interim Head of ACS Finance reported that the difference in  costs were influenced  in part by competition within the market place but noted that Council services also carried a higher degree of  overheads. 

 

The issue of client choice was also raised and the Director ACS reported that there had not traditionally been a large degree of choice as the logistics of the service meant that carers were allocated on the basis of availability, but as the use of personal budgets increased service users would expect to exercise choice and that this would also involve them needing to compare the cosrts of different service options.

 

A Co-opted Member questioned the timeliness and speed of the decision.  The Director ACS reported that over the past five years there had been a steady reduction in the amount of in-house care provided and an increase in the level of private care provided.  The Director ACS stressed that the decision had not been rushed.  The Director reported that if there were redundancies these would be one off costs but that he was unable to disclose specific figures at this stage.  He also stressed that it was the intention to minimise redundancies through recruiting home care staff to the new reablement service and through other redeployment opportunities across the department.

 

Another Member questioned whether the current in-house care staff could be given the opportunity to utilise their skills and form their own company or set up their own social enterprise.  The Assistant Director (Care Services) reported that the Department was developing a re-ablement service which would provide ring-fenced employment opportunities for staff employed in the in-house service to utilise and develop their existing skills where appropriate.  The Assistant Director acknowledged that a social enterprise could be a possibility and that any staff wishing to explore this would be signposted to organisations that could provide advice.

 

A  Member raised issues surrounding the auditing and scrutiny of private care services.  The Chairman reported that in April 2010, the Committee had reviewed the quality of domiciliary care services.  The Assistant Director (Care Services) reported that as part of the complaints and quality assurance process spot checks were carried out on an announced and unannounced basis.

 

A Co-opted Member highlighted that Bromley had always prided itself on its local provision and that preference should be given  to local providers as the existing local knowledge should be retained.  The Co-opted Member also stressed that independent  providers should be regularly monitored and that a substandard service should not be tolerated to support a reduction in costs.

 

A Member asked if there were any additional measures that could be put in place to ensure that standards of care remained high.  The Assistant Director (Care Services) suggested that a report providing more detail on quality assurance measures would be provided to the Committee at a future meeting and the Chairman reported that this was already included within the Committees work programme.

 

The Portfolio Holder acknowledged that quality should underpin the services provided and confirmed that the responsibility for care remained with the Council.

 

A Member suggested that current home care staff be assisted with setting up as an independent provider.  As a result of this, a Member suggested that the Committee add a further recommendation for consideration by the Portfolio Holder.  The Recommendation proposed by Councillor Adams was:

 

That every help and facility be given by Bromley Council to DCS employees to enable them to establish a social enterprise, which would have as its key objective the provision of home-care services to the frail, elderly and disabled within the Borough of Bromley and that social enterprise should be allowed to compete on equal terms with other agencies for the Council's home-care service contracts.

 

Councillor Fookes seconded this motion and suggested that that a further recommendation be presented to the Portfolio Holder requesting that service users be consulted on the proposed changes.  This additional recommendation was supported by Councillor Adams.

 

Councillor Fawthrop suggested that the recommendation proposed by Councillor Adams be amended to read:

 

That advice be given by Bromley Council to DCS employees on how they might explore the options of establishing a social enterprise to provide home-care services to the frail, elderly and disabled within the Borough of Bromley and that social enterprise should be allowed to compete on equal terms with other agencies for future contracts for home care.

 

The amendment was seconded by Councillor Macmull.

 

Following a vote the amendment to the recommendation was carried.

 

The Committee went on to vote on the recommendation proposed by Councillor Fookes that services users be consulted regarding the changes and following the vote this recommendation fell.

 

RESOLVED that (1)  the Portfolio Holder be recommended to endorse the proposals for the In-house Home Care Service, subject to the outcome of consultation. (2) That advice be given by Bromley Council to DCS employees on how they might explore the options of establishing a social enterprise to provide home-care services to the frail, elderly and disabled within the Borough of Bromley and that social enterprise should be allowed to compete on equal terms with other agencies for future contracts for home care.

 

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