Essex: Unison fights plans to outsource children’s homes

A UNION has said that Essex County Council (ECC) would be “taking risks with young people’s lives” if it decides to outsource its children’s homes.

Seven children’s homes across the county, which are currently operated by the council, could be run by private companies if the proposals are agreed by councillors at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday December 7.

Unison, the union for public sector workers, has criticised the plans saying ECC’s record on outsourcing is “appalling”.

Babs Whitfield, Unison branch secretary for Essex, said: “These children and adults deserve the best we can give them.

“Unison will support both staff and children to keep the homes within ECC rather than outsourcing them to a company whose only interest will be the potential for profit.

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“Is ECC willing to take risks with young peoples’ futures, young people who may have had troubled lives in the past?”

Giving examples of how outsourcing has not worked in the past, Ms Whitfield said: “ECC outsourced care homes to ExcelCare who treated staff appallingly, leaving Unison no option but to lodge a claim with the employment tribunal.

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“Happily, Unison was successful in its bid to obtain justice for ex Essex County Employees. Subsequently one of the outsourced homes in Colchester was closed due to the disgusting conditions in which residents were expected to live.”

The children’s homes which could be outsourced include The Willows and Donyland Lodge in Colchester, The Chestnuts in Chelmsford, The Limes in Basildon, The Meadows in Buxton, The Old Manse in Great Dunmow and Brocklesmead in Harlow.

The Leverton Hall Secure Unit in Brentwood and homes for children with disabilities will not be included and will stay with ECC.

A spokesperson for ECC said: “Essex County Council is looking at alternative options to residential care to enable more young people to remain living within their own families and communities with support. Recommendations will be presented to cabinet for approval on Tuesday December 7.”

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