21 questions about Calderdale Council’s proposal to privatise Community Social Work

Calderdale Council Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel will today (31 March 2015) scrutinise a proposal to set up a pilot that will test the outsourcing/privatisation of Community Social Work.

The cost-cutting aim is to turn the Council’s Support at Home social work service into a Public Service Mutual (PSM), along the lines of the “People to People” scheme in Shropshire – saving Calderdale Council £2.5m in 2017/18.

The Calderdale Community Social Work PSM would be set up in a form to allow ‘commercial’ or  ‘investment’ funding; it would be profit-making and would allow staff to take 35% of the yearly profits.Started as a small pilot in October 2012 with two social workers, in October 2014 Support at Home expanded to 8 social workers in October 2014 with investment from the Better Care Fund.

The Better Care Fund siphons NHS money into the nearly-empty Council social work coffers, that have been drained by massive Coalition government cuts to local authority grants since 2010.

The Better Care Fund is supposed to justify its existence by reducing acute and emergency hospital admissions for the fragile elderly and people with chronic illnesses – although there is no evidence that the community health and social care services it pays for will have this desired effect.

However, the Support at Home social work service has cut demand for reablement by 37.5% in the three months since October 2014.

The Report to the SP on Community Social Work Practice (Public Service Mutual) by the Director of AHSC, Bev Maybury, explains that outsourcing the Support at Home social work service is about cutting costs:

“…there is an accelerating need for the public sector to reduce expenditure and demonstrate efficiency and value for money in new ways…”

In other words, the Council has exhausted all known ways of cutting spending and services, so they have to come up with something new.

Why don’t our Councillors tell central government to reinstate proper local authority funding?

Here are some questions I hope the Scrutiny Panel will get answers to:

  1. Would Calderdale Community Social Work PSM be carrying out community care assessments on behalf of Calderdale Council? (A People to People webpage says this is what they do on behalf of Shropshire Council.)
  2. Would the proposed Calderdale Community Social Work PSM  use staff who are not qualified in social work but will be cheaper to employ? (If you look at People 2 People adverts etc, they don’t actually state they use social workers to undertake assessments, they use the title ‘Support Workers’. )
  3. In the new Community Social Work PSM, would adults with health and social care needs be assessed by unqualified workers who will not have in-depth knowledge about individual needs, skills in advocacy and the skills to work in a psychosocial way?
  4. How will there be a place in the proposed Community Social Work PSM for current Calderdale social workers, with their current pay and conditions? (The People 2 People-type PSM will cost Calderdale less than their current system – and  according to information that the AHSC SP heard at the AHSC Budget Proposals meeting, saving CMBC £2.5m in 2017/18 is the main reason for proposing to set up the Community Social Work Public Service Mutual (PSM).
  5. If the answer to 4) is “no”, will current Calderdale social workers be offered positions in the other Local Authority teams?
  6. Isn’t this proposal all about money not individual needs, and the road to privatisation of the public sector? (Calderdale are already using some unqualified staff, in mental health, to undertake some assessments! )
  7. And isn’t this proposal also about what the Council can get away with not providing, or getting the service user to pay for or get for free? (This seems to be borne out by Bev Maybury’s Report to the SP on Community Social Work Practice (Public Service Mutual). It says,

“People to People…is focussed on achieving outcomes in ways that do not always rely on paid support…”

This sounds as if People to People does community care assessments that involve telling people they won’t get professional support from social workers, but will have to rope in unpaid help from family, friends and voluntary groups. This presumably is where quite a lot of the £2.5m savings in 2017/18 will come from.
Bev Maybury’s report confirms this:

“Traditional service solutions…will only be considered after natural and community supports have been exhausted… ”

In other words, when the person needing help has run out of family and friends to call upon. )

8. How humiliating and stressful is this going to be?

9. And why is the word “natural” used to describe the use of unpaid carers from family and friends? (This will nearly always be women – don’t women already have plenty to be getting on with, without being expected to take up the slack in social care because the government has given all our public funding to the banks who crashed the financial sector and global economy in 2008?

And what will happen if we’re unlucky or collectively misguided enough to end up with a Tory government after May 7th, given the likelihood suggested in leaked documents that under a new Tory government about 40% of claimants would lose their carer’s allowance in order to save DWP £1bn? How are unpaid carers with no carer’s allowance going to survive?)

10) Bev Maybury’s Report says that Calderdale Council’s Community Social Work Pilot (called Support at Home) “works with people who aren’t know [sic] to adult social care”. If people aren’t known to adult social care, how come Support at Home social workers know about them? Specifically:

  • How do they find out about them?
  • It sounds as if they are somehow identifying people who might need statutory social care services and heading them off at the pass. Is this done through risk stratification in GP practices or how?
  • What are the data protection issues if this is the approach being used?

11. Why would the proposed PSM be created in a form to allow ‘commercial’ or  ‘investment’ funding?

12. What sources of commercial or investment funding are likely to be tapped? And why would a Community Social Work PSM be an attractive commercial investment?

13. Is this about charging service users and effectively operating as a commercial organisation as a privatised social care company?

14. Why would the social workers share in the ‘profits’ (35% of profits, to be precise)?

15.  How would profits be generated?

16.  What sort of relationship would the social workers (or more likely, ‘support workers’) then have with their clients, if their clients are a source of profit for them?

17.  Why does the Report consider that a 35% share of the profits is necessary to guarantee a “highly motivated, loyal and flexible staff team”? Isn’t this a bit of a slap in the face for social workers’ professional ethics and integrity?

18. As for the claim that an Advisory Group would make the Community Social Work Practice accountable to the people they serve, you have only to look at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust to see that public representation in the governance of a commercialised public sector organisation doesn’t mean a thing. What about the accountability of social workers to the people they serve, by virtue of being employed by a democratically elected body who have to answer to the public?

19. Why are there only two options for appraisal – do nothing, and implement the proposals in the Report? There are other options. Why aren’t they identified and considered?

20. Which options did the so-called stakeholder consultation invite people’s opinions about?

21. The statement that “we admit more people to permanent residential care than should be necessary” is an assertion without any substantiation. Who makes the judgement about what level of permanent residential care should be necessary? And where is the evidence base for that judgement?

You can read the Report to the SP on Community Social Work Practice (Public Service Mutual) by the Director of AHSC, Bev Maybury here .

The People to People website is here.

Here is information about the privatisation of Adult Social Care by Salford Council, which seems to share many similar elements with what’s going on in Calderdale.

One thought on “21 questions about Calderdale Council’s proposal to privatise Community Social Work

  1. How are the new structures going to pay for the right of people under the new Care Act, not only to ask for an advocate, but to be actually provided with an advocate to help them navigate the tricky aspects of provision, when that advocate has by nature, to be independent from the organisation giving/advising about the service needs? Advocates can be demanded from 01/04/2015.

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