UNISON is firmly against privatisation in Camden's care homes

The latest proposals for the future of Camden s care homes leave a particularly bitter taste. It is clear that the Tory/Lib Dem Councillors are intent on selling as much of the family silver – property as well as staff - as possible and I believe their

The latest proposals for the future of Camden's care homes leave a particularly bitter taste. It is clear that the Tory/Lib Dem Councillors are intent on selling as much of the "family silver" - property as well as staff - as possible and I believe their main focus is not improving services, but achieving savings regardless of the potential damage.

It does not take much research to show that the privatisation models for Council services - including the ownership or care of the elderly - has a bad record. Just over the border in Barnet, Fremantle runs the care homes, and recently there has been a huge campaign by staff, family/carers and local residents. Five years after transferring those services to Fremantle, staff faced an imposed cut in wages, cuts to holiday entitlement, and the prospect of no pay rise for three years. Understandably, and with community support, union members took a series of strikes to defend their rights. Over another border In Haringey, the Council privatised all the staff, only to see the management company cease trading in 2003 and the Council had to take all the staff back in-house to the ongoing satisfaction of residents and staff.

Care of the elderly depends on excellent staff, and cutting pay means staff are often forced to get other jobs in order to sustain themselves. All too often, privatised services mean cutting costs at the expense of hard working and dedicated staff and that is not acceptable.

Camden's "preferred" option is to retain the ownership of the homes, but to privatise the workforce, or to introduce an ALMO for residential homes. I suspect they have focused on the point of retaining ownership in order to make their savings at the expense of the staff, but we believe that local residents in Camden understand that the staff in the homes are the jewel in the crown and would want to support keeping them within Camden's workforce.


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Private companies are not necessarily stable. At the moment, the "market" is actually pretty unstable. Having the prospect of an uncertain future for the care of the elderly in the private market is not something we should actively seek, and given the fact that Camden now offers a 4-STAR service, we believe it should remain as the "excellent" in-house service.

We hope that as many people as possible made their views known in the recent consultation process. UNISON, along with other local trade unions, will be happy to be involved in any campaign to make sure the in-house option is chosen when the Council Executive make their decision on 23 July.

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Phoebe Watkins

Camden UNISON Convenor Adult Social Care

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