Children’s Services and outsourcing: UNISON concerns

UNISON is deeply concerned about last minute changes to the council’s plans for a new ‘Integrated Prevention and Earliest Help Service’ (IPEH).

The new approach could lead to WSCC in-house services being outsourced.

WSCC services which could be impacted include:

  • Children & Family Centres
  • Youth Services
  • Youth Offending Services
  • Domestic abuse workers
  • Young carers workers
  • Think Family

Neither staff nor UNISON were consulted on eleventh hour changes to contracting for the Healthy Child Programme (HCP), which could now see the successful bidder for that contract also taking over WSCC services. Consultation was missing on this crucial and unwelcome development, despite the extensive work done with staff and UNISON on service redesign over the past few months.

UNISON is concerned that by extending the HCP contract to make it an open invitation to co-design and then possibly run WSCC services, much bigger players will be drawn into the tender process, such as Virgin. Sussex Defend the NHS and UNISON’s Brighton branch are currently campaigning to prevent a Virgin takeover of children’s services there. If it can happen just along the coast from our branch, it can happen in West Sussex and members should not assume that their jobs and services are safe.

The council has an awful track record in outsourcing. Failure after failure has been visited upon both staff and users of the services.

Branch Secretary Dan Sartin made this point to the West Sussex press recently and received extensive coverage throughout the county.

Dan also attended the WSCC Select Committee on 8 September and spoke up in the meeting for staff and the essential role of in-house services.

Councillors did not in our view adequately scrutinise:

  • the plans and how they had been arrived at;
  • why the HCP had to be procured in the way it was proposed;
  • why staff had not been involved in that key development;
  • how an effective integrated service could be achieved through outsourcing;
  • the lessons learned from the CCG’s failure of the Bupa/MSK takeover;
  • the county’s track record in managing its current contracts;
  • what would be different this time, to avoid the mistakes that we have seen elsewhere in managing the county’s contracts.

It should be a concern for all residents and taxpayers that this scrutiny was entirely absent.

UNISON will be calling a meeting of its reps working in the affected teams above in order to prepare for a defence of our services. Do you have a UNISON Rep in your team? Now is the time to elect one. Are all your colleagues in UNISON? Now is the time for them to join.

Please also feel free to get in touch with the Branch about this.