Health: Home help workers fearful over redundancies

SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan.
SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan.

The Western Trust has said there are no planned redundancies among local home help staff despite fears they are being “left in limbo” as health reforms are implemented.

Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan has now voiced concerns on behalf of the workers, whom he said are worried for their futures because of the changes being brought in under the Transforming Your Care agenda.

Health officials have confirmed to the Journal that there are at present 230 Home Helps employed by the Trust, attending to 570 service users.

Mr Durkan has now written to Health Minister Edwin Poots about concerns expressed to him by home help workers in the city, who fear their roles are about to change dramatically.

Mr Dukan said: “The reality of the failings of ‘Transforming Your Care’ has really hit home for staff in Derry.

“These new plans will inevitably see an end to the ‘home help’ service that has delivered sterling work in Derry, and across the North for decades.

“While many service providers are happy to move into the new structures, others - particularly more senior workers - are looking to either keep on their current role or for a way out.

“I met with senior Trust management to put forward these concerns, and I was assured every staff member would be worked with individually. While staff told me they have had discussions with their employers, they feel they have not been heard and have been left waiting in limbo over their futures.”

Mr Durkan said he has repeatedly asked what options were open to the workers who cannot go forward into the new roles, but said he has been met with “a blanket wall of silence”.

He said: “Staff members say it seems if they do not conform with the new health agenda they will be out of a job and without any redundancy package.

“This is shocking, particularly as many of these hard working service workers have dedicated their entire working lives - many in excess of 20 years - to providing a sterling community service to our sick, elderly and vulnerable.”

The local Assemblyman added: “I have expressed my frustration and upset to the health minister. The SDLP respect and value the work home help employees have provided over the years.

“Not only are we saddened to see the loss of this invaluable service, we are angered at the poor treatment that has been shown to the hard working staff.

“I have urged the minister to swiftly take action and intervene to give staff the futures they deserve.”

A spokeswoman for the Western Health and Social Care Trust responded: “The Western Trust has been implementing the reform and modernisation of its Domiciliary Care Services as part of the wider Transforming Your Care (TYC) Programme.

“As with all change initiatives, the Trust is aware it can be a difficult time for affected staff and open communication is essential to ensure effective change.

“Homecare and Human Resources Managers have been in regular communication with staff and with Trade Union Side representatives. Affected staff have also been met with collectively and individually throughout this process.

“There are no planned redundancies amongst home help or homecare staff.”

The spokeswoman elaborated that there were three strands to the Trust Homecare TYC reform: the development of ‘reablement’, the completion of the reform of the in-house domiciliary care service, and the re-tendering of independent sector homecare provision.

“These reforms are in the process of being introduced,” she said.

In June 2011, then Minister for Health, Michael McGimpsey Social Services and Personal Safety (DHSSPS), announced that a review of the provision of health and social care would be undertaken.

The Report envisaged a number of structural changes to enable their model of integrated health and social care to be implemented.

There was be a planned major shift to care delivered within people’s homes and a greater access to care in the local community.