Care cuts and ‘gagging order’ denied by AHSCP

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Angus Health and Social Care Partnership has responded to union claims that it has ‘gagged’ staff over service issues and has denied suggestions of cuts.

On Monday the union GMB Scotland hit out at what it claimed was a ‘gagging order’ issued by social care executives in a letter.

According to the union, staff among its membership have been angered by service changes, which they have claimed include up to 170 job cuts, contractual changes, scaling back of the Community Alarm, and now most recently by a letter sent by George Bowie, service head.

It read: “ your working life you must never publicly criticise us through the media, at a public meeting, or in any contact with members of the public.”

GMB Scotland Organiser Helen Meldrum said: “It’s remarkable that the council are trying to shut-down their employees concerns given the massive cuts to this crucial service and the significant impact this will have on both staff and the service users.

“It is time for an honest debate about what this will mean for the future of care across Angus because let’s be clear that the council is leaving the doors wide open for the private sector to plug gaps that will surely emerge in service provision.

“Instead, the council would rather that staff fearing for their livelihoods kept their mouths shut and the public were kept in the dark about what these cuts will mean for some of the most vulnerable in our local communities.

“Unfortunately, it’s not hard to see what the future holds: Our most vulnerable citizens receiving ‘pit stop’ care and delivered by a skeleton workforce on the lowest terms and conditions possible.

“This is what austerity looks like in Angus and it’s utterly shameful.”

Angus Health and Social Care Partnership responded: “There a number of inaccuracies within the GMB statement which should be corrected.

“Angus Council staff working within the AHSCP have not been issued with a ‘gagging order’ but were sent a letter on Friday 10 February reminding them of their obligations under the Angus Council employee code of conduct. This code of conduct was agreed with the trade unions at a local level and applies to all council employees. It is based on a National Code of Conduct developed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in recognition of the fact that the public expects a high standard of conduct from all council employees.

“The quotation in the press release is from page 13 of this code.

“There has been considerable communication with the staff group of which the GMB is aware and staff’s view continue to be sought in ongoing employee forums and briefings. Further the AHSCP is in active consultation with the trade unions which are there to represent the views of this staff group.

“For clarity as the GMB along with the other trade unions have been made aware the council is not proposing any cuts to the service but rather is a change and development the provision of the service. Under the mechanism of Self Directed Support, Angus residents are now able to choose which care provider to use. Many are choosing other providers which are highly rated by the independent Care Inspectorate and offer better value for money. The development of care options in partnership with the independent sector are essential to meet rising demands for care.

“In addition, in the letter the Head of Service commended staff affected by the changes on their professional and caring approach. However, it was observed that a balance needed to be struck between freedom of expression and ensuring that service users and the public are not unnecessarily distressed, and that the organisation for which they work is not brought into disrepute.”