Row over new adult care services plan in Blackburn

Image caption, Adult care services cost the council £8.4m a year

A Lancashire council has been criticised over plans to privatise care services for the elderly and disabled.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council is looking at whether to transfer the services, which cost it £8.4m a year, to a social enterprise company.

The Unison union said the proposals were an "insult" to the 350 employees who work in the council-run service.

A council spokeswoman said staff had been kept informed and the decision will be debated at a meeting later.

Unison officer Mike Booth said unions had only just been told of the plans, and they were a "bolt from the blue".

"The current service is well-run but the council has been making plans to abandon it without even talking to the staff involved or properly considering the impact this could have on some of the most vulnerable people in the community," he said.

"The council is abdicating its responsibility for social care and is irresponsibly pressing the executive board to agree to the scheme before it has even assessed the costs to set it up and implement it.

"Unison will be objecting to the plans and will be looking for an alternative option to keep the service in-house."

The government wants to encourage more people to be given budgets to manage their own care by employing assistants rather than use council services.

'Different approach'

It is understood the social enterprise company will be responsible for creating a new workforce of freelance or self-employed personal assistants.

It will control all adult social care services other than social workers.

Councillor David Foster, executive member for adult social care at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: "The national personalisation agenda means that local authorities need to take a different approach to delivering health, well-being and care services to our communities.

"There are considerable benefits in setting up a social enterprise to do this. They have proved successful in other parts of the country.

"The proposal will be debated fully by the council's executive board on Thursday."

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