Key Somerset County Councillors today agreed to continue with the transfer of its in-house learning disabilities service to a new social enterprise next month despite a peaceful protest of over 100 people who gathered this morning outside the offices of Somerset County Council.
We understand many more protesters would have been there if they had been able to be.
A meeting of the council’s Cabinet considered but rejected a request from a Scrutiny committee earlier in the month to delay the transfer and review the original decision to move to a social enterprise.
The decision to move to a social enterprise was made as the council looks to improve services and make them sustainable in the long-term. It believes the new organisation will give service users more choice and encourage innovation in a service that would otherwise go into continued decline as fewer people are choosing to use it.
At today’s meeting Cabinet agreed to make it clear to the provider that meaningful consultation is necessary. It also agreed that if an additional contribution to funds already set aside to compensate staff for any potential changes to terms and conditions is required, the council would support this. Around 1,200 staff in its Learning Disabilities Provider Service are on track to transfer to the new social enterprise on 1 April.
The meeting was attended by many staff, service users and carers raising concerns potential changes to staff terms and conditions, and how day services will be provided in the future.
Leader of the Council, Councillor John Osman, said: “We need to move the service forward. Throughout all of this the aim has been to ensure that services for people with learning disabilities are of high quality but also sustainable.
“Delaying this would not be the right thing to do. It will only serve to lengthen the uncertainty for staff and people who use the service.
“We know there is a lot of good work done by our staff and that is highly valued. But fewer people, especially young people, are coming into the service and if things do change it will face slow decline. This move will allow it to develop, innovate and provide the kind of services that people are increasingly wanting”.
The new enterprise being is created in partnership with nationwide care provider Dimensions UK. Dimensions has notified staff that it will be consulting over existing terms and conditions once they transfer.