Written response to UNITE questions raised at the Cabinet meeting on the 15th March

 Written response to your questions raised at the Cabinet meeting on the 15th March

We are submitting to Cabinet the Questions submitted to The County Council Meeting (Q1-Q6) on the 15th February and The Scrutiny Committee -Adults and Health- (Q7-Q10) on 1st March.

We attach a copy of the Unite/ESSU statement on the proposal to transfer 1200 staff to the Dimension s Uk Ltd Group and follow up Questions (these are the ones submitted to the County Council meeting on 15th February and Scrutiny 1st March) to which we have not yet received written replies, so they are still relevant to Agenda Item 5.

Question 1

The existing turnover rate of staff in LDPS is high at about 15% and in the Autumn there were approximately 140 posts vacant.

Children’s Services has been rated “inadequate” for 3 years by Ofsted and the service recovery has been blighted by staff turnover and recruitment and retention problems. How does the Cabinet member for Adults, this Council and the Director of Adult Social Services believe the recruitment and retention of staff in LDPS will be improved by proposals to drastically cut the pay, terms and conditions of the staff after outsourcing and transfer to Dimensions UK Ltd.


It is important to recognise that, with the exception of specific proposals relating to a small group of managers and administrative staff, the measures letters contained the areas on which the new social enterprise wishes to consult with staff rather than specific proposals and no-one can say what they’ll be until that has finished.

Question 2

Can we please have a list of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will be used to monitor the outsourcing contract after staff transfer to Dimensions UK Ltd (which is currently proposed in just 6 weeks’ time)? Where the KPIs are applicable to the In-House Service will they be baselined with the current In-House performance so that we can all see what better, worse or similar performance looks like if the outsource and staff transfer of this vital service to Dimensions UK Ltd proceeds?


There are contractualised KPIs that Discovery will report and which be monitored on a regular basis. The KPIs targets have been set based on in-house performance and to ensure continuous improvements to services.  Please find a copy of the KPIs attached to this letter.

Question 3

How does the Council think this vital service to a vulnerable group of people (more than special-needs-students-clipart-1“customers”) will be safely delivered if the staff are demotivated and demoralised by these cuts to pay, terms and conditions?


As previously stated, the measures letters contain the areas on which the new social enterprise wishes to consult with staff rather than, at this stage, specific proposals.

Question 4

Given there are County Council elections in May and there is a possibility of a change in the Administration will the Council delay any outsource with staff transfer of LDPS to Dimensions UK Ltd so that a post-election review can take place?


The council has been committed to the transfer of these services in line with the plans that have been in place for many years now.  I do not believe that a deferral of the decision would have been in the interests of the service, the people who use it and also their families.  As you will be aware the transfer was discussed in detail at the meeting and cabinet remained committed to the April 1st transfer timeframe.

Question 5

Can the current agreement with Dimensions UK Ltd be set aside or cancelled?


There is provision for termination, but only under specific circumstances.

Question 6

a) Will SCC demand a commitment from Dimensions UK Ltd to keep day centres open and have a veto on the proposals to close them and intervene if service users, parents, carers, families demand it?


SCC requires Discovery to transform day services, building upon the current examples of good practice and also to address those areas of the current offer that need modernisation.  We have also required Dimensions to expand the range of support in conjunction with carers and customers.

b) In the light of the recent proposals from the outsourcing contractor (Dimensions Uk Ltd) will you please supply a copy of the updated Risk register and Issues Log?


This is not a document that is appropriate to release at this stage.

Question 7

a) When this Committee went into private session (press and public excluded) at the end of June last year was there any indication that Dimensions UK Ltd would offer to close day centres, make redundancies, cut pay, sick pay, terms and conditions of employment?


As you will be aware from the presentation at cabinet and the subsequent discussion I believe that scrutiny and cabinet had all the necessary and appropriate details available to them.

Image result for service usersb) How have service users, parents, carers, families and community and voluntary organisations been informed and consulted on the Dimensions UK Ltd proposals?


The Council has written to all customers, carers and staff regarding the measures letters received from Dimensions.  Due to needing to make it accessible the letter to customers was slightly delayed, but would have been received at the beginning of March.  It is important to recognise that, with the exception of specific proposals relating to a small group of managers and administrative staff, the measures letters contains the areas on which the new social enterprise wishes to consult with staff rather than specific proposals.   Community and voluntary organisations have not been involved up to this point, but we would expect them to be as proposals for day time support are developed which we expect to take about a year to complete.

c) Dimensions UK Ltd have not released the Economic Organisational and Technical (ETO) reasons for the proposed changes. The only reason given to date is they want to align with the Dimensions national structure (the Social Enterprise Vehicle seems to be a halfway house to take-over?) – can we be provided with the ETO reasons?


Somerset County Council does not consider that ahead of the transfer there is a legal requirement for Dimensions or Discovery to provide the economic, technical or organisational reasons for the measures that they envisage taking following the transfer. 

We expect Discovery, following the transfer of employees, will enter into a period of consultation in relation to any proposed changes, including providing details of the business case for such changes. It will be the responsibility of Discovery to ensure that any changes implemented are made in accordance with legal requirements.

Question 8

a) Will this Scrutiny Committee support the reasonable request for the business case on which the Cabinet made the decision July 2016 to be released into the public domain as this is a public service, operated by public funds and there is only one bidder limiting the benefits of (so-called|) competition?


The business case was contained within the papers considered by Cabinet in July 2016 and is therefore already in the public domain.  

b) Will this Committee recommend a delay in the transfer of 1200 staff to Dimensions UK Ltd to allow for the current levels of uncertainty to be addressed?


This was a question to the Committee and the discussions and outcome are recorded in the notes of the meeting.

Question 9

a) The financial profiles indicate that after 6 years the forecast saving is £4m? Why is Dimensions UK Ltd getting a a taxpayers “dowry” £6m upfront?


There is no dowry being paid to Dimensions UK or Discovery. Many contracts of this nature will require investment as part of the establishment of the organisation, and it is important in this case (i.e. an organisation directly responsible for people’s lives) that the correct investment is made. Once in place the organisation will be on a firm footing to then ensure that the right outcomes are in place for our service users and are providing value for money for the council

b) Have Dimensions UK Ltd profit (surplus) forecasts been shown to you and have they been significantly amended since June 2016?


The financial standing of the organisation formed part of the procurement process. An annual financial review of the provider review of the provider will be performed as part of the contract and in line with usual council practice (a second review took place in June 2016 before Cabinet and was satisfactory).

c) Has SCC asked Dimensions UK Ltd to make greater savings than were agreed by Cabinet in July 2016 when SCC decided to give a contract to them?


No additional savings have been contractualised / added to the obligations of the new social enterprise.

Question 10

a) Have the risks of recruitment and retention been addressed in the risk log and for service continuity?



We are discussing areas of risk with Discovery, which include recruitment and retention of staff. 

b) Has SCC assessed the risks of a legal action on lack of consultation?


Yes, we have. We have been working with staff representatives to ensure that the council fulfils its duties under relevant legislation. This is, of course, additional to a full programme of engagement with staff and trade unions that has been on-going over a number of years.

c) If this controversial outsource of LDPS fails then will there be a Plan B (including an In House Service Improvement and Innovation Plan)?


As you will be aware the transfer took place very successfully on 01/04/2017. 

New Question 1

i) Following the recommendation from the Scrutiny Committee the Cabinet now has an opportunity to propose an Immediate Gateway Review prior to any proposed transfer to Dimensions (UK) Ltd. Will this now take place?.


This was a question to the Cabinet and the discussions and outcome are recorded in the notes of the meeting.

ii) Will there also be a review of what currently works well in LDPS and what requires improvement, in full and meaningful consultation with service users, parents, carers, families, community and voluntary organisations, trade unions and staff?


What works well and what requires improvement has been reviewed as part of the transfer, and will continue to be reviewed now that Discovery has begun operation.  Where areas are identified as requiring improvement the approach will vary depending on what the area is with consultation and/or coproduction taking place as appropriate. 

“I’m here to pay you to tell me how much I have to pay someone else.”

New Question2

The ESSU report made a number of recommendations including immediately drawing up a contingency plan for service failure post transfer. Will the Council now recommend a fully developed In House Service Improvement and Innovation Plan?


While the council has a legal responsibility to ensure that people’s needs are met, it is not prescribed how we do that. So, if the new social enterprise for whatever reason wasn’t able to continue – and we absolutely think it will continue – we would make sure alternatives are in place to meet those needs.  However, that doesn’t mean we’d necessarily have to ‘take it over” again or that an “In House Service Improvement and Innovation Plan” would address whatever the problem was. 

New Question3

i) Will the Council check that the Business Case approved last summer included the proposals that Dimensions UK Ltd have made? Were Councillors fully notified of the implications which have recently emerged?


The Business Case and supporting documents included the implications of the transfer.

ii) Have Councillors, Service Users, Parents, Carers, Families, Community and Voluntary Organisations, Staff and Trade Unions been effectively been misled (as recently indicated)?


In short, no, they have not been misled.  As you will be aware from the presentation at cabinet and the subsequent discussion I believe that Scrutiny and Cabinet had all the necessary and appropriate details available to them.

New Question 4

Do you agree that service users who take up the direct payments/personal budget option can access and choose the Learning Disability Provider Service (which has an In House Service Improvement and Innovation Plan)?


The statutory guidance states that direct payments cannot be used for in house services.  While it has been previously argued that it is guidance, it is statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State that the council would have to have a robust reason to ignore.  We do not feel that a robust reason exists.


New Question 5

As previously requested please can you release the Business Case in full?


The business case was contained within the papers considered by Cabinet in July 2016 and is therefore already in the public domain.  

New Question 6

Will the Council now recommend that the Dimensions UK Ltd proposal to close day centres will be terminated?


In terms of the potential for changes to day services that you make reference to, there will be a review of day services, of which day centres are a part. It will last roughly a year and people who use services and carers will be absolutely central to it. We can’t pre-empt the outcome of that review, nor rule anything out, but the aim is to make any changes that are needed so that services are better suited to what people want and help them to achieve their outcomes.  The council has always been clear that we expected that services would need to change over time in the same way that they always have, and this is as much the case for day services as any other service.

I hope this fully answers your question and again I do apologise for the delay in sending this response.

William Wallace
Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care
Somerset County Council
County Hall

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