Plans to privatise Norfolk home care

Radical plans to privatise home care support for thousands of elderly people in Norfolk are to be considered behind closed doors on Monday.About 900 staff, or 780 full time equivalent carers, who currently visit people to offer a range of help from feeding, bathing, dressing, and lifting, are likely to be affected.

Radical plans to privatise home care support for thousands of elderly people in Norfolk are to be considered behind closed doors on Monday.

About 900 staff, or 780 full-time equivalent carers, who currently visit people to offer a range of help from feeding, bathing, dressing, and lifting, are likely to be affected.

The proposals from Norfolk County Council would see social services chiefs hand over the running of long-term support packages and specialist dementia and palliative care to independent providers.

County Hall currently spends £33m a year on home support for around 6,000 people a week - commissioning half of the services in-house and the remainder to the independent sector.

With the numbers of elderly set to rise, the council is keen to shift the focus of its services to intensive support for the first 12 weeks after a new referral, before passing on continuing care to the private sector.

And it is estimated the move will save £4.55m in staff costs.

Most Read

Under the favoured option being considered by the authority, the split would change to 20pc of support hours provided in house and 80pc of hours by the private sector.

The council is looking to phase in the changes over at least seven years, and as individual staff leave the authority their "hours" will be passed over to the independent sector, who could either arrange additional staff to cover or manage through existing resources.

The issue will be discussed by the adult social services review panel on Monday, but under council rules the public will be barred because the report details commercially confidential information.

Union leaders last night urged councillors to stick with the status quo and said the move would mean lower pay for staff and hit recruitment. There are also fears that the proposals would see a growing burden of work placed on a dwindling number of carers.

Jonathan Dunning, from Unison, said: "They are putting money before the interests of the service. The work will eventually go to the private sector but we are concerned at how that process will be managed."

One council home support worker, who did not want to be named, said the uncertainty was hitting staff morale: "We just need the council to give it to us straight," she said. "People don't know what's going on. We went to a meeting and one of the girls asked if they could guarantee we would have a job next year and they said 'no'."

Harold Bodmer, director of adult social services, said: "We have put forward this preferred option because we believe it offers the best overall solution when considering the impact on service users, quality and care management, human resources and cost.

"We believe this solution, when compared with the other options, enables us to improve the service and make the best use of resources. Our aim has been to come up with a proposal for the new service which offers the best all-round solution to maintain 'care in the community' for the long-term."