Hardworking staff who care for adults with learning disabilities in Somerset are fighting to maintain the quality service they provided before being outsourced to “Discovery”. Public services are about care not cost!

For over 25 years Somerset County Council delivered a high level of personalised social care and support through the Learning Disabilities Service. But in April 2017, Somerset County Council outsourced over 1200 staff to a social enterprise called Discovery, run by national company Dimensions.

Somerset County Council promoted the transfer as a way to ensure continued high levels of care for vulnerable adults. They promised to focus on maintaining current links between carers and service users.

Staff were ready to make the transfer work, but Somerset County Council and Discovery have gone back on their commitment to high quality care.

The reality is an attack on support workers’ terms and conditions. Around 200 staff have left the service in the six months since the transfer. Turnover and sick absence are much higher than when the service was run in house. And a consultative ballot of LDS staff in September 2017 returned a 97% “Yes” vote to reject Discovery’s attacks on terms and conditions and explore industrial action.

Continuity of care is desperately needed. The focus must be on care not cost.

Sean Cox, a UNISON steward working in Somerset’s learning disability services explains:

“Maintaining one set of high quality terms and conditions is the only way to ensure continuity of care for service users, make sure that we can keep attracting the best care workers, and for us to deliver a good service. All of this was promised to staff and service users, but now the council are going back on their word.”

What you can do:

If you would like more information about the Learning Disability Service in Somerset please email southwest@unison.co.uk


In May 2017, UNISON wrote to local political parties about public service issues. You can see the response we’ve received here:

Leigh Redman, Labour group leader

Health – there is no doubt that the STP process will mean the NHS will suffer, and by default will mean jobs and service will suffer. I think it is simple ‘put the necessary resources in place that are needed to fund our NHS’, Bridgwater community hospital needs to be a community hospital, FUND IT APPROPRIATELY…

LD service, it really concerns me the way that this important service is being threatened by a council that has forced through the outsourcing by deceiving its members and employees, now that Dimensions has made clear a review will be undertaken that puts building and jobs at risk, is WRONG, I support the UNISON campaign and have signed their pledge.

Schools – schools in my division are being effected by insufficient funding and putting our children’s education at risk, support staff do an important job and their roles need to be protected. Any cuts are wrong, our children’s education is important and should be protected.

Adult social care – this Conservative Council has created a funding crisis in Somerset’s Adult social care service, if re-elected I will campaign for adequate funding to support Unison’s Ethical Care Charter.

Jane Lock, Lib Dem group leader

Health: we need to build much stronger links between Social Care and the NHS. It is crucial that we are better at real joint working. In a county with so many diverse and rural communities we need to find new and innovative solutions to deliver vital services.

Learning Disabilities: The Liberal Democrats support Unison’s campaign to protect the rights of the staff transferred out of County Council control.  We recognise the need to make sure that all the promises given to staff, service users, carers and families are kept and that Day Centre places are accessible to all those who need them, for as long as they need them.

Schools: Our schools continue to be underfunded, even the recent reallocation of funding. Whilst looking generous, it turned out mostly be a smoke and mirrors exercise with grants being taken away and SCC increasing charges for support services. Somerset’s children are still being short-changed.

Adult Social care: The Liberal Democrats will guarantee that the £11 million of extra funding given to Somerset is all spent on improving outcomes for people coming out of hospital, working closely with the NHS to make lasting improvements.  We will not be employing expensive agency staff.

 

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