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Relocation of Rutland County Council social care jobs from Brightways Centre to former Ashwell Prison site sparks concern




Carers who worked on the frontline during the pandemic are critical of a social care overhaul that could change their working hours dramatically.

Rutland County Council is planning to introduce a new '24/7, personalised' service for adults with special educational needs and disabilities.

The overhaul to its Day Opportunities Service replaces the current day centre model, which opens from 9am to 3pm.

Rutland County Council's plans to overhaul its service for adults with special educational needs and disabilities have sparked concern among staff
Rutland County Council's plans to overhaul its service for adults with special educational needs and disabilities have sparked concern among staff

It will be switched from its current Brightways Centre base, at Catmose College, to a new Community Care Services Hub at Oakham Enterprise Park, in Ashwell Road, which will be used for specific activities, such as cooking in a specially adapted kitchen.

The partner of a carer, who wished to remain anonymous, said staff were being asked to sign new contracts which would significantly change their working hours and affect their family lives.

"My partner worked through the pandemic going out to care in the community for people with disabilities because they needed that care, and this is her reward," he said.

Rutland County Council's portfolio holder for safeguarding, Coun Alan Walters
Rutland County Council's portfolio holder for safeguarding, Coun Alan Walters

"She has gone from a day service Monday to Friday, with occasional overtime, to a 24/7 service.

"She has an elderly relative who she looks after and these shifts will impact on that.

"It just seems the way the council has gone about it, and how the decisions are made, is just a smack in the face for the people who put themselves at risk throughout the pandemic."

He added: "They are telling staff if they don't sign these contracts they will not have a job.

"My partner has had a contract for a number of years, but that counts for nothing.

"It's not really much of a consultation if at the end of it that's what going to happen anyway."

Rutland County Council said the flexible days and times, including evenings and weekends, would allow the service to offer more activities in the community, such as meals out, shopping trips, a nature walk, or a trip to a café.

They said Covid-19 had highlighted the service's limitations because it was restricted to set times during the week.

The service was reviewed and several improvements were outlined in line with national guidelines and after feedback from service users and their families.

Changes would 'prioritise flexibility and choice' for people with learning disabilities and autism, with an 'emphasis on independence, developing skills, health and wellbeing, and preventing social isolation and loneliness'.

“Day opportunities is a key part of the service we offer adults with learning disabilities and autism, so it needs to focus on the best outcomes for the people we support," said Coun Alan Walters, the council's portfolio holder for safeguarding.

"As it stands, our traditional day centre service hasn’t been fully updated in a decade and is no longer fit for purpose.

"It is time for a more meaningful, flexible offer, personalised to each individual’s needs and interests.

“We will continue the seven-days-a-week service to meet individual needs, and we will be able to do more activities that haven’t been possible before."

Coun Walters said the 'vital transition' had been trialled for the last 18 months and staff had been consulted for almost a year.

“We've been working closely with our team, those we support, and their families and carers to make sure everyone understands what the change will mean for them," he added.

"Changes are being implemented gradually, in some cases simply continuing the new ways of working already adopted during Covid-19.

"Since sharing our vision for the new service with staff in August last year, we have been meeting with teams and individuals regularly to listen to their feedback and views on how best to implement the changes.

"We have also put in place flexible arrangements for staff, based on their individual needs.

“We appreciate that some impact on working patterns is unavoidable. However, our priority must be to provide the best possible service for people with specific needs, and their families.”

What do you think? Email smeditor@stamfordmercury.co.uk



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