Adult care provokes big debate

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KIRKLEES Council will look again at plans to privatise home care services after passionate pleas from the public to keep the service in-house.

The council is looking at outsourcing routine work to the private sector, which would mean that it would provide just 15 per cent of the care. It currently provides 17.5 per cent.

Kirklees Unison is worried that the changes will open the door to further privatisation, as the council looks at cutting its spending.

The union handed over an 8,000 name petition last month, which led councillors to debate the issue at this month’s full council meeting on Wednesday.

Petition organiser Kathleen McHendry told the meeting that the issue should be looked at again.

She said that council carers did a better job than their private sector counterparts, as their training was superior.

She said: “Watching a 20 minute video on manual handling does not compare to a one-and-a-half day training course.”

She added that council carers were paid better, had their travel paid and as a result, staff valued their jobs more.

She added: “Less pay results in a higher turnover of staff.”

However, councillors denied this was the case.

Coun Liz Smaje said: “There is no evidence that those who work hard in the independent sector can’t provide quality of service.

“The public sector does not have a monopoly on compassion.”

Coun David Sheard, cabinet member for investment and housing, said that the private sector provided 19,000 hours of care, compared to in-house carers providing 4,000 hours. He said last year the council received 11 complaints against its own staff, compared to 22 against those in the private sector.

He added: “If Unison is serious in talking about ways to compete with the private sector, I think we should be taking them up on that.

“If we are talking about horror stories, let’s back them up with facts.”

Later in the meeting, held at Huddersfield Town Hall, Coun Edgar Holroyd-Doveton (Ind) co-signed a motion to maintain a ‘public sector ethos’ to home care.

However, he was roundly shot down by Coun Molly Walton, cabinet member for health.

She said: “You have the opportunity to put your own budget together and I will watch where you find £20m from. For goodness sake, stop trying to make a name for yourself on this council with this rubbish.”