As requested I am submitting the union response with an appendix on the 15th of August as agreed.
I am disappointed you were not able to consider the union response before tabling your report for closure, twice now.
It is a shame that the usual protocol has broken down in this case.
Union Response to Proposal to close The Grange
Submitted by Ameen Hadi on behalf of Salford City Unison
Unison opposes the closure of The Grange and are disappointed at the lack of any meaningful consultation regarding this proposal (please see Appendix 1). The report to be presented to the Mayor is full of inaccuracies and fails to consider powerful arguments why it is in the interests of the children, residential services and the people of Salford that this resource is not lost.
This position is endorsed by the parents, staff and stakeholders and the two children are thriving in the current setting. It is disappointing that the consultation has failed to consider these arguments.
There is a demand for this service.
The report disingenuously claims there is no demand for residential services for children with disabilities in Salford. It cites the occupancy rates as 40% since October 2016. However, this ignores the fact currently 25 disabled children (this figure is higher if you include those placed in residential schools) are currently placed in out of borough private provision (figures provided by Council). It also conveniently hides the fact that Children Services management have refused to place any child at The Grange since last year because the resource is at risk of closure!
As the Council received criticism at budget setting for proposing the closure of The Grange it hurriedly arranged an “open day” at short notice. In contradiction to feedback given by Council Management a local authority did respond and in recent months have twice tried to refer young people to The Grange and have been refused because the facility “is to be closed.”
We are also aware of other children where social workers, parents and other professionals have recommend placement at the Grange and again staff have been told this is not an option as The Grange “is due to be closed”.
The so called lack of demand for the Grange is a lie to justify a cut and even worse the privatisation of all residential care for disabled children from Salford.
Why are disabled children being treated differently from able bodied children requiring accommodation?
The Grange is a fantastic resource with dedicated staff that is committed to working with young people with both learning and physical disabilities. The staff are fully trained and offer a professional service. If the children are moved, despite ignoring the negative impact such a change can have on autistic children, it would leave the children placed in private provision. It is a disgrace that within the Council’s own Community Impact Assessment it fails to acknowledge the impact on two children currently placed there or the associated risks of losing all in house provision.
Families of children with disabilities and complex care needs are finding it increasingly difficult to access specialist local authority help, a study has suggested.
A National Children’s Bureau (NCB) report estimates there has been a 50% rise in the number of disabled children in England with complex needs since 2004, including a doubling in the number of children with complex autism.
However, despite the increase, it says official data shows proportionately fewer disabled children appear to qualify for council help, suggesting services are setting higher thresholds for accessing care.
As a result, families and children may be missing out on help provided by personal assistants, assistance in the home, overnight support services and respite care, the NCB says.
However, Salford Council has accepted the need to accommodate these children. Should they not be allowed access to the same quality of care that other Salford Children that need to be accommodated? This data along with the Council own data regarding disabled children currently shows that demand for residential accommodation will continue.
Why the Grange needs to be kept open
So, if there is a demand for residential services for disabled children why does Children Services Management wish to close this resource. It can only leave one conclusion- it is cheaper to place children with disabilities in privatised care.
The Guardian reported in June 2015, that “People caring for the most vulnerable children in the care system are often among the most low paid of the wider children’s services workforce, with average earnings of about £10 an hour.
It is no surprise, then, that more than half of all children’s home providers say they have difficultly recruiting care workers with the right skills and experiences, and, critically, the right insight to care for children with the most pressing needs. “
Caring for children is expensive, caring for disabled children even more so. People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by austerity.
The Grange as a facility was rated as outstanding by Ofsted for safeguarding.
Both for the quality of care and for the children there now and in the future we ask the Council to maintain this provision.
It is clear from consultations with staff that the closure of The Grange would place a number of staff at risk of compulsory redundancy. In the consultation report it notes “redundancy notices be issued should they be required.” Staff attending one to ones with Management and HR have received no assurances of future job roles. From discussions with members some have been told that equivalent job roles will not be available and so force them into redundancy. As such our members at The Grange, across the residential sector and our wider Council membership are willing to consider industrial action in defence of their jobs.
Unison opposes the closure of The Grange as a loss of a needed public service. In management desire to force through such a closure they have failed to consult or to consider the potential for compulsory redundancy. To avoid further action we request that the proposal to close the Grange is withdrawn.
Failure to Consult
On the 4th of May Mike Kelly, Head of Service, on behalf of Children Services, held a meeting at the Grange to begin the consultation. A report was shared although we are still yet to receive any electronic copy.
During the consultation meeting staff requested 3 additional documents which Mike and Anita Grieve from HR agreed to provide.
Feedback on the proposal presented by Lisa Millar on behalf of the staff
A copy of the report regarding the demand for residential care for children with disabilities.
How many children with disabilities are currently in residential placements?
Subsequent to this meeting we further requested a copy of the Community Impact Assessment for the proposal.
Once in receipt of these documents we would be in position to consult with staff at The Grange regarding alternative proposals.
1 .Feedback to Lisa Millar
At the budget setting meeting Lisa Millar was encouraged to share her team’s initial thoughts regarding alternatives to closure. This was done on the 2nd of March and was NOT part of the consultation process. The Management response was eventually shared with the union on the 11th of July. It claimed both that The Grange required full staffing and that staff were placed at other units due to occupancy. No clear costings were provided.
2. Service Managers Report
In the original consultation report it claimed that “a piece of work had been undertaken by a service manager …which highlighted that there are no children or young people foreseen requiring” residential care. This document was eventually shared with the union and staff on the 1st of August. This is over 2 weeks later than the supposed end of the consultation claimed in the report to the Mayor and the Cabinet! Maybe unsurprisingly the document contains no evidence of a lack of demand for residential care.
The document regarding residential placements for children with disabilities (excluding those in residential schools) was shared on the 8th of June. It catalogued 25 children aged between 9 to 17 years of age who are currently accommodated. This clearly shows that there is an ongoing demand for residential services.
4. Community Impact Assessment
The Community Impact Assessment was shared on the 25th of July but failed to even acknowledge the potential impact on the current service users and their parents let alone the impact for the future for failure to have provision within Salford. I would be surprised if this report had even been shared with the Equalities Team!
Despite continued requests from the staff and union for this information to be shared promptly management have failed to do so. Emails and DCSC minutes will evidence this. We are happy to provide this evidence if requested.
Staff and union believe that Management arbitrarily closed the consultation on the 14th of July without providing the information they agreed to provide. Furthermore we are disappointed that they have failed to consider the staff side response before tendering their report to Cabinet. As such, the union is clear that the Employer has failed to enter into a meaningful consultation.
Salford City Unison
443/445 Chorley Road,
Tel No: 0161 794 7425
Mob: 07557 281 471