A decision on the future of North Lanarkshire’s home support workers has been postponed.
The North Lanarkshire Integrated Joint Board ( IJB), was expected to vote on recommendations to outsource large parts of the service to the private sector.
The IJB consistently argued that the re- grading of North Lanarkshire’s home support workers in 2015, following their successful equal pay claim, makes the service unaffordable.
However, at last week’s IJB meeting in front of a packed public gallery of workers, the item was axed from the meeting’s agenda.
Public sector trade union UNISON claim the outsourcing of the service would be “privitisation by the back door” and would threaten the future of the service.
Johanna Baxter, UNISON’s regional organiser, said: “The price of equal pay at work cannot be the privatisation of your job.
“The decision has the potential to result in large scale redundancies, which the council will have difficulty managing through voluntary severance or redeployment, and a poorer service for those in need of home support in North Lanarkshire.
“The number of workers who turned up at the meeting, many of whom have just came off nightshift, shows the strength of feeling among members.”
In April 2016, Councillor Barry McCulloch, the council’s social work convener, announced that home care jobs would stay in- house.
But a briefing paper emerged two months later stating the current arrangements for home care were “not sustainable” because of financial pressure and growing demand.
The report also stated it proposed to redesign the workforce and introduce greater choice and flexibility to service users.
John Watson, UNISON North Lanarkshire branch officer, added: “In January 2017, both Labour and the SNP locally signed up to UNISON’s Ethical Charter, committing to ensure there would be no privatisation of home care services in North Lanarkshire.
“The IJB is now proposing to spend £23 million of public money in the coming years to private providers.
“This is public money and should stay in our communities to ensure we provide the appropriate care packages for the vulnerable and frail people in our areas.”
A spokesperson for Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire said: “No report on home support was considered by the Integrated Joint Board this week.
“Work is ongoing and a report will be considered by the board in due course.
“It is simply untrue, however, to say that ‘large-scale redundancies’ are planned. In fact, there has been no suggestion of redundancies in any of the work carried out to explore options for the future model of home support. In terms of the balance of provision, there has always been a mixed economy deployed between in-house council resources and those provided by the independent sector.”
Campaign UNISON home support workers demonstrate outside North Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters