More than 70 jobs are under threat at a key South Tyneside care service as union chiefs claim council bosses are aiming to contract out the work.
South Tyneside Council says it is consulting with staff on plans to close down the Home Assessment Reablement Team (HART) at the new £9m health hub in the grounds of South Tyneside Hospital.
The team based at Haven Court on McAnany Avenue, South Shields, supports people who are re-adjusting to living in their own homes after a stay in hospital for up to six weeks.
Council bosses are looking to close the team and develop a Help to Live at Home service instead.
They say they are looking at how support is delivered to ensure that it meets the more complex needs of service users in the future and fits into an integrated adult social care model.
Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and wellbeing, said: “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.
“HART has been providing a valuable service for a number of years, however we need to design future services that can adapt to meet the more complex needs of our service users. The current model is inefficient and not as effective as it could be.
“We appreciate this is an unsettling time for those affected. Discussions with trade unions and staff are ongoing and we will continue.”
The consultation period is due to close at the end of this month.
Public service UNSION is concerned the service will be privatised.
Janet Green, UNSION branch secretary, said: “The HART team is a vital public service that helps in the rehabilitation of people who have suffered from illness and saves them from going into full time care homes.
“The removal of this service will be at a cost of over 70 jobs.
“UNISON has concerns over the privatisation of this service and believes it is best placed within the public sector.
The plan has come as a blow to South Tyneside residents who have used the service.
One former service user said: “I have been looked after by this team in the past. If it goes, who is going to help people who need this service?”
Another said: “This team is wonderful and I think it is awful that staff have been demeaned by being put in this position.”
A third user added: “They are saying the service is costing to much money, but we only have them for six weeks and a lot go off fully independent.”