'Decimated' North Northants home care service based in Corby is on its knees, warns union

The service cares for young adults across the North of the countyThe service cares for young adults across the North of the county
The service cares for young adults across the North of the county
The service looks after some of the county's most vulnerable young adults

A union has spoken out publicly over fears for the future of a council service that supports vulnerable young adults in North Northamptonshire.

Unison, which represents public sector workers, says the home care service is “on its knees” because there are 32 vacancies that remain unfulfilled. Even agency staff have snubbed the roles because of the poor rates of pay.

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The North Northamptonshire Council service, based in Corby, provides specialist support for young adults with disabilities, including those with mental health issues and brain injuries.

But Unison says years of neglect by the now defunct Northamptonshire County Council and poor pay levels have decimated the service, even with the devotion and commitment of care workers who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to look after those who needed its help. They have urged the council the intervene to stop its collapse.

Specialist staff are paid just the minimum wage of £8.91 an hour, which Unison says is lower than most other councils.

The union says this has left the service with large numbers of vacancies because it is difficult to find new recruits willing to work for such a low pay level

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Current staff are forced to plug the gaps by working regular back-to-back shifts from 7am to 11pm.

The union has now asked the council to come up with an effective, sustainable plan to ensure the service can recruit and retain a proper workforce.

UNISON North Northants Local Government assistant branch secretary Yolande Morgan said: “The staff are at breaking point. There are 32 full-time vacancies and they can’t even get agency staff as the pay is too low. If the staff didn’t do overtime, the service would collapse tomorrow.

“This can’t continue. These are the heroes who have worked in people’s homes throughout the pandemic, putting their health and that of their families at risk because they love their jobs.

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“They continue to put their own well-being on the line to ensure the level of care service users need isn’t compromised. Staff have told us they’re on their knees and need help now.

“UNISON is currently in productive discussions with the council and it’s hoped there will be a positive resolution.

“This service provides care to the most vulnerable in our community and mustn’t be allowed to fail.”

Unison said that other councils adhere to a botton pay rate of £9.25 an hour and that neighbouring councils such as Milton Keynes Council and Cambridge City Council pay the Real Living Wage of £9.50 an hour, while North Northamptonshire pays its existing home care staff the lowest possible wage in the country of £8.91 an hour.

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David Watts, North Northamptonshire Council executive director of adults, communities and wellbeing said: “I have personally been working closely with Unison and the services involved to better understand the concerns that have been raised regarding recruitment and retention in provider services and the impact on our staff since the services transferred into the new council in April 2021.

“The rates that are paid to staff in these services were in place prior to the services transferring across from Northamptonshire County Council. We are determined to address the historic pay matters as a new council but in doing so have to ensure that it is financially possible to do so both in the short and medium term.

“We will continue to work productively with the union and aim to bring forward proposals to address this matter as swiftly as possible.

Councillor Helen Harrison, executive member of adults, communities and wellbeing, said: “The role our dedicated staff play in providing essential support to people to gain and maintain independence is of paramount importance.

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“The executive of the council are keen to understand the proposals that will be brought forward to hopefully address the concerns and are committed to ensuring that as a council we demonstrate how we value our staff and address concerns that are raised, quickly and efficiently.”

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