Unite, which represents local authority and care workers, has accused Sandwell council of starving its principal social care provider of funding, resulting in the pay and conditions of workers being cut.
The problems relate to Sandwell Community Caring Trust (SCCT), where Unite has significant membership. The trust was created in 1997 as a registered charity by Sandwell council and company limited by guarantee, to provide adult social care primarily in Sandwell.
SCCT provides residential care and supported living for people with dementia, and respite and day care for adults with learning disabilities. SCCT receives an average of just £54.39 a day to provide day care for adults with learning disabilities, a figure that has not increased for eight years.
There is also growing anger that the rate given to SCCT for day care services is less than half given to some private providers used by the council who can receive up to £146.10 per person per day.
As a result of the funding freeze SCCT has had no option but to cut the terms and conditions of staff who are set to have their enhanced payments for weekends and bank holiday work reduced, although their pay rates will remain substantially higher than for other private providers.
The SCCT point out that 80 per cent of its revenue is returned to the local economy via workers’ wages. In contrast many private providers spend only 55 per cent of their income on care staff wages.
Unite’s attempts to resolve the matter have been thwarted as Sandwell’s director of adult social care David Stevens had initially refused to meet Unite regional officer Brian Rickers, after Mr Rickers was adjudged to have sent an ‘overly aggressive’ letter to Mr Stevens when seeking information about the council’s funding arrangements.
“Sandwell council is starving a first class provider of vital funding, which is directly resulting in cuts to the pay and conditions of our members,” said Unite regional officer Brian Rickers.
“While it is understood that councils have severe funding issues as a result of the government’s austerity measures, Sandwell has significant funding reserves some of which should be spent on preserving the pay of workers who care for the borough’s sick and elderly on a daily basis,” he added.
“While Unite regrets that the trust is cutting terms and conditions of its workforce, it understands that as the trust has been starved of funding it has been left with little or no option.
“I am sure that the local MPs will also be highly concerned about how Sandwell Community Caring Trust is being starved of funding and I hope that they will also intervene to get these matters resolved,” Rickers went on to say.
“Sandwell council needs to come clean about its funding issues. It is only by being transparent and honest that local residents can understand what is happening and that the quality of care its vulnerable citizens require can be preserved.”
Unite is organising a demonstration about the cuts and freezes to adult social care on Tuesday, October 16 at 5pm at Sandwell Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury, West Midlands, B69 3DE.
Pic by Gordon Griffiths