Social services on the brink as backlog of vulnerable Northamptonshire adults awaiting a social worker hits 2,000

Adult social services at Northamptonshire County Council are suffering from a desperate staffing shortage, the authority's cabinet meeting heard yesterday.
Adult social services at Northamptonshire County Council are suffering from a desperate staffing shortage, the authority's cabinet meeting heard yesterday.

The extent of underfunding at Northamptonshire County Council means some 2,000 vulnerable adults have not yet been assigned a social worker.

Yesterday, Northamptonshire County Council's cabinet approved a set of proposals aimed at saving £9.9 million in next year's budget.

Unison branch secretary Penny Smith.

Unison branch secretary Penny Smith.

The Conservative cabinet agreed to slash all of the subsidies the council provides to local bus routes, to cease running 21 libraries and to freeze staff pay.

Leader of the council, Councillor Heather Smith said the "regrettable" cuts were because of a chronic under-funding from central Government.

But the meeting yesterday heard how Northamptonshire Adult Social Services (NASS), the arms-length company that looks after elderly and vulnerable adults in the county, is now desperately struggling for staff after successive cuts.

Managing director of NASS, Anna Earnshaw told the meeting: "There are currently 2,000 cases unassigned - that's not a place I want to be in.

The cabinet meeting yesterday saw a raft of emergency cuts approved. They will be ratifies at the full council meeting today.

The cabinet meeting yesterday saw a raft of emergency cuts approved. They will be ratifies at the full council meeting today.

"External reviews have shown us we are seriously underfunded. In fact they say the savings we are being set are unrealistic."

Ms Earnshaw said The Local Government Association has labelled Northamptonshire as the worst-funded social services authority in the country

Adults can be assigned social workers if they suffer from a disability, if there are concerns about an individual's behaviour or if there are reports of violence within a family unit, among other reasons.

But cabinet member for adult social care, Councillor Bill Parker, said the cost of offering people a care package has gone up so much, NASS cannot afford to recruit enough people.

He said the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is due to carry out an inspection of the county's adult social services this year.

"If we are not successful in that inspection, we could lose £5 million," he said.

But Unison, the union that represents more than 1,000 employees at One Angel Square, said the proposals to freeze staff pay will make even more social workers leave to find work at better-paid authorities bordering Northamptonshire.

Branch secretary Penny Smith, said: "They are not employing enough frontline staff and they are putting too much pressure on the ones that are there.

"Cutting pay will not recruit or retain social workers.

"In actual fact they will not have to make people redundant they will just leave of their own accord."

Mrs Smith said the pay freeze has been particularly galling after former chief executive Paul Blantern was given a £95,000 leaving payment and the previous director of human resources was given a £50,000payout.

Staff have recently each had a day’s salary deducted to help the council balance their books and have also seen their terms and conditions reduced over recent years

including their entitlement to sick pay.

Branch Secretary Penny Smith is dismayed by the recent proposals. “hard working staff are fed up with managers who have put the council in this precarious position, receiving

large salaries and pay-offs while those front line staff who deliver the services the residents rely on are being rewarded with job insecurity and effectively another cut in

pay."