Our Southampton District branch has marked a victory in its fight for staff and residents at two council-owned care homes in the city, with the council’s decision ‘in principle’ to keep one open and promise no compulsory redundancies.
Last year, the council announced its intention to close the last two care homes it owns, Glen Lee and Holcroft House, from April 2020, in a bid to save £1.3m a year. The homes employ 85 staff and house around 50 vulnerable elderly adults.
But when it started a public consultation on the plans in October, UNISON Southampton deputy branch secretary Claire Ransom pointed to the example of Reading. The Berkshire council closed its homes, in favour of contracting the service to private firms, which it believed would provide the same service for less money. But as Ms Ransom explained:
“When Reading’s homes were closed, the fees charged to the council went up. This put huge pressure on budgets and meant planned savings didn’t happen. Southampton must not make the same mistake.”
The branch also launched and coordinated a petition against the closures on the council’s website, attracting 2,565 signatures – the highest number recorded at the council.
As well as asking for the homes to be kept open, the branch urged the council to reaffirm its commitment to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and Residential Care Charter, which were signed in May 2018.
Ms Ransom presented the petition to a full council meeting in November, alongside campaigner Debbie Edmonds, whose mother is a resident at one of the homes.
Now the council has significantly changed its plans. A full council meeting in February confirmed the decision “in principle” to close Glen Lee and keep Holcroft House open, while guaranteeing that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the closure of Glen Lee.
Staff will be given additional training if needed and Southampton will explore setting up a council-owned domiciliary care team. The permanent residents of Glen Lee will be offered places at Holcroft House.
The council now plans to develop Holcroft House as a “dementia hub” or centre of excellence for people living with dementia in the city
Staff will be consulted on the revised plan, with a final decision due on 18 June.
UNISON has been consulting members and working closely with other unions in the workplaces, and although some staff at Glen Lee have said they oppose closing their place of work as part of the revised plan, others have signalled their acceptance of the council’s improved proposals.
“The loss of any public service is a disappointment to UNISON,“
said Ms Ransom.
“However, we understand that local government is grossly underfunded and Labour councils like Southampton are suffering the consequences of the Tory central government’s austerity agenda.”
The branch will continue to work with the council to ensure that the pledges given are not rolled back on and is encouraged that its campaign has resulted in significant changes to the original proposals to close both homes.
Family members of residents being cared for in the homes have also been positive about the campaign and its outcome and thanked the branch for its work.