71 jobs are set to go at a key South Tyneside social care service after council bosses made the decision to close it.
South Tyneside Council has confirmed that the Home Assessment Reablement Team (HART) will close as it looks to remodel adult social care services in the borough.
The team supports people who are re-adjusting to living in their own homes after a stay in hospital for up to six weeks.
It has been based at Haven Court on McAnany Avenue, South Shields, with staff delivering services in patients homes.
The decision has been made following a consultation period and the council say that a wider Help to Live at Home service will be developed in its place.
It is anticipated that the changes will improve outcomes and save approximately £1m per year.
Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and well-being said: “This is not about stopping services but is about changing the way in which they are provided – so that they are fit for purpose and make best use of the limited funds we have.
“Supporting people to remain independent and in their homes is a key priority for us and we continue to work with providers to ensure that our residents receive the appropriate care they need whilst still operating in the tight financial envelope we have been given.”
Staff affected by the changes are being offered early retirement, voluntary redundancy or redeployment.
Anyone currently receiving support from the HART service will continue to do so until the end of their programme -usually no longer than six weeks.
Coun Dixon added: “We appreciate this is an unsettling time for those affected.
“Discussions with trade unions and staff are ongoing and we will continue dialogue with all parties as we move through the process.
“The closure of the HART service is part of a wider package of changes to adult social care.
“Faced with £5m of standstill pressures over the next two years we must reshape services to ensure that they are resilient, sustainable and deliver best value for money whilst still meeting the needs of service users.”
The council said despite the HART service closing it will still provide care and support to those who need it - with the new arrangements continuing to prioritise people going from hospital to home.
The authority said it faces ‘significant demographic pressures’ as the number of residents over 85 years old is expected to double in the next 20 years, placing huge pressure on existing services.
The council says it is developing an integrated adult social care model that will provide more effective, long term support for those who need it.
But the decision has been met by anger from service users and UNISON officials.
Janet Green branch secretary of UNISON called it a ‘sad day’. She said: “This is something that we are very disappointed about as we were hoping that this was a service that we could keep.
“It is a really sad day, not just for the residents in South Tyneside, but for the 71 staff who have lost their jobs.
“Some of which have been there for a really long time - some more than 15 years.
“We have been told the service will be disbanded by September time and then the service will be commissioned out to other providers. “It is such a loss for South Tyneside.”
One service user agreed, saying: “I am disgusted by it.
“I know other people who have also used it and they have said it is a wonderful service and have been very appreciative of it.
“I am very bitter about it closing as I think it is a very valuable in the community.
“I think the decision is totally wrong.”