Somerset learning disability staff defiant as transfer day raises fears over jobs and wages​

Over 1200 staff employed until now by Somerset county council will today (1 April 2017) turn up for work with a new employer and the threat of cuts to terms and conditions including pay ahead of them.

Despite a campaign from hundreds of staff, carers and service users, council bosses have not heeded calls to delay the transfer date.

Discovery, part of Dimensions UK, from today the operator of the learning disability service, has informed staff it intends to restructure the service and cut pay to fill a £4m reduction in the learning disability budget allocated by Somerset county council over the next six years.

In a partial victory for the campaigners, 237 relief workers have been saved from an immediate wage cut of a potential £1800 per year.

Following lobbying from UNISON, supported by service users and carers, Somerset county council has given written agreement that relief workers will transfer over to Dimensions on their existing conditions.

But Dimensions UK have warned that they intend to begin the process of reducing wages, restructuring jobs, and potentially closing day centres from day one of their tenure of the learning disability service.

UNISON organiser Tom Kennedy-Hughes said:

“Learning disability staff in Somerset have run the service brilliantly, and they deserve better than to be off-loaded onto the lowest bidder. The Tory council is trying to wash its hands of responsibility. UNISON’s campaign has protected the relief workers and now we will keep fighting to protect the whole service.

“The transfer of the Learning Disability Service to Dimensions was supposed to ensure sustainable care, with ‘no savings targets’.  Yet now the transfer appears to be a cost cutting exercise which will see staff and service users pay for the political choice to underfund adult social care. There is a risk of losing experienced, well trained staff if wage cuts mean they can’t make ends meet.

“There’s still time to protect the quality service with continuity of staff that was promised. In the run up to the elections on 4 May we will be asking candidates to sign our learning disability service pledge, committing them to providing proper funding. Somerset residents need to know they can trust their councillors to run public services, not say one thing and do another as has happened here.”


Further info

  • On 1 April Discovery will become the employer of 1200 learning disability service staff previously employed by Somerset county council.
  • Discovery is what Dimensions UK have called their social enterprise vehicle for the Somerset learning disability service
  • Relief workers receive hourly rates and were set to see these fall from £7.95p/h to £7.60p/h (band 15) and £8.55 to £7.60p/h (band 14).
  • A worker on a shift pattern of 30 hrs per week working 4 hrs over the weekend was set to lose over £1800 per year, or about 13% of their income
  • UNISON stewards will be running stalls in Frome and Chard between 10:00 and 15:00 on Saturday 1 April to mark the handover of LD services by celebrating the care delivered by hard-working staff and letting the public know how cuts will harm care.