Dear Stuart Petrie
Re: UNISON response to phase 13
Nature of the consultation
This consultation has been very difficult due to the lack of meaningful consultation with staff affected and their trade unions and mixed messages given by the consultant leading the project.
UNISON was informed at the JCC on 25th March 2011 that new job descriptions would be ready for consultation within 2-3 weeks and the Union Rep spent three months trying to access these from the consultant.
On 4th July staff received a letter with details of the consultation which stated that their job descriptions would be revised as part of phase 13.The Project Coordinator confirmed on 11th July that no changes to job descriptions were being planned.
Staff in the two homes proposed for closure were originally told that staff in all the homes would have to compete for the jobs in the remaining three homes. The consultant subsequently stated that only staff from the two affected homes would have to apply for posts. This has caused a lot of anger amongst our members who feel unfairly treated and stressed by the threatened closures and the proposed changes to their terms and conditions.
Staff at Flaxen Road and Francis House were promised second consultation meetings which did not happen before the consultant left abruptly on 29th July. Despite several proposed dates for meetings no consultation meeting with the unions has been held to discuss phase 13.
Staff and unions are still waiting for the promised second equalities impact assessment.
Staff views about the selection of Francis House and Flaxen Road for closure have been included in this response as they have not had an opportunity to raise these issues with management in any detail.
Given the way previous home closures have been managed it is fair to say there is a high level of scepticism on the part of union members and Reps about phase 13.
UNISON has repeatedly asked senior management what happened to the money from the sale of two homes, EPL and Walton House but has not received an answer.
Relatives and residents were told the money would be used to finance two ‘super’ homes, one in the north of the borough and one in the south. These plans did not materialise but it has never been clear where the money went.
Management now claim they do not have enough money to bring the remaining five homes up to the standard required by CQC and are proposing that Flaxen Road and Francis House close. If these two homes do close what guarantee is there that money from the sale of the land will be used to refurbish the remaining homes?
UNISON believes that staff, residents, relatives and unions are entitled to know how much these sales generated so we have an idea of much refurbishment of this could finance. We understand that there is no longer a CQC requirement for all homes to have en suites for residents, so are not clear what work would be needed.
Interestingly Crownfield Road day centre has recently been refurbished and re-opened as a disability hub, how was this financed?
Most of our members feel this has not been a genuine consultation and that a decision to close the two homes has already been made.
Phase 13 proposals
The report to Cabinet contained a chart in appendix B showing each home with scores listed under certain headings. This information has not been discussed properly with staff or their Unions and we do not know which CQC reports and other information were considered by management when scoring each establishment.
The scoring makes little sense as Mapleton Road is scored at 13 but Flaxen Road is 9. Both homes have identical layouts and were built at the same time but Flaxen Road has more space for expansion.
In relation to Francis House the Cabinet report stated the home is in a poor location but gives no further evidence to warrant the low score of 1. Staff have reported a steady decline in anti-social behaviour and crime in the area and it has plenty of space for expansion.
Staff in both homes have commented on the advantages of the buildings being on one level which is very beneficial for people with dementia as it allows them more freedom to move around a larger area.
What is a viable number of beds for a home and when did this change as both Francis House and Flaxen Road would have been seen as viable when they were built?
Appendix B of the report states that Flaxen Road has no potential for expansion without major refurbishment. Why is this not also true of Mapleton Road?
We understand that information cannot be provided on the number of posts and hours available in the remaining homes until the Cabinet decision is made. However staff are looking for confirmation that there will be enough jobs for them.
The Phase 13 report states that staffing levels will be increased at the remaining homes, which is welcomed by UNISON, but the staffing hours on the ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ charts are the same.
How will this process be managed? Will staff be asked for preferences? When will assimilation rights be identified? What is the timescale for closure?
Home Care has been mentioned as a possible redeployment opportunity but many care staff came from Home Care and increased their hours when they transferred. We believe Home Care will not be able to offer redeployees enough hours.
Some staff are interested in voluntary severance but have been told no decision will be made until the autumn. If these staff were identified now this may free up jobs for staff who wish to remain with the council.
The consultation with staff and unions on phase 13 has been poor and the consultation deadline should be extended to allow the Project Coordinator more time to meet with staff and unions. We are suddenly being offered meetings the day before the deadline which is not acceptable.
UNISON is opposed to the proposed closure of two homes, which will be the loss of valuable resources, especially in light of the limited local capacity for people with dementia and the well-publicised financial difficulties of the private care sector.
The staff in the two homes have been hit by a ‘double whammy’ as they are worried about whether they will have jobs and if they do their terms and conditions are being drastically reduced which is causing them considerable stress and financial worry.
Dave Knight, Branch Secretary
(letter dated 3.8.11)