Learning disability service showdown over transfer date

Staff at Somerset’s Learning Disability Service (LDS) will today (15 March 2017) hold a silent rally outside the final cabinet meeting before pre-election purdah kicks in.  LDS staff will use the slogan “#guiltyofcaring”, reflecting their feeling of being targeted for their commitment to the LDS.  Staff are deeply concerned over the Tory council’s decision to hand over the service to the national company Dimensions.

Jobs, pay and conditions, and some day centres are all at risk of being cut according to documents sent to staff by Dimensions, as the company aims to reduce spending on the service by £4m. But the proposed transfer date of 1 April 2017 has been criticised as unrealistic by Somerset county council’s adult care scrutiny committee.

The cabinet will today decide whether to back the campaign from staff and service users and delay the transfer date, or stick with plans to hand over to Dimensions in just 17 days time.

UNISON South West organiser Tom Kennedy-Hughes said:

“This decision is a chance for council bosses to show whether they’re listening to staff or would rather look the other way to the trouble this transfer will cause. For staff facing pay cuts to barely above the minimum wage and service users concerned about upheaval in the facilities they rely on, this has to be done right. If the cabinet will just agree to push back the transfer date, we can work with Dimensions to avoid the slash-and-burn plan they’ve come up with.

“Although the cabinet has revealed a secret pot of money to paper over cuts in the short term, this is cold comfort to staff who are facing a permanent hit to their finances. The fact that this fund was set up over a year ago shows that the cabinet knew even then that cuts to terms and conditions would be on the agenda. Despite this they told staff and service users that they would be protected. Now the people at the top need to make good on their promises and push back the transfer date.

“I hope the Tory cabinet takes time to read the stories of care and support going above and beyond, sent in by service users and staff. This local service is too valuable to be palmed off to a national company with no proper consultation and the threat of cuts hanging overhead. With £11m of extra funds for care in Somerset just announced by the government, this is the right time for the cabinet to announce a pause in the transfer and fix the problems they’ve caused in their rush to get it done before the elections.”


Further info

  • The rally will be held outside the county council house from 09:00 on Wednesday 15 March 2017
  • On Friday 10 March 2017 Somerset county council released information about a compensation fund of undisclosed size for staff hit by the transfer to Dimensions
  • At a meeting on 1 March scrutiny councillors voted to send the decision back to cabinet with a recommendation that the transfer be delayed