By Linda Tanner / L.Tanner@bepp.co.uk
Celebrated film director Ken Loach joined scores of home care workers in Bristol in their battle to save their jobs.
About 250 staff fear for their future if the city council goes ahead with planned changes to its care service.
The Liberal Democrat-run local authority wants to put much of the long-term care it provides for elderly and vulnerable people in their homes out to independent agencies, because this is cheaper for the taxpayer.
It calculates that each hour of care from the private sector costs about £17 while the in-house service works out at about £34.
But the workers and their unions say that as well as putting their jobs under threat, the proposals put the service users at risk.
If a private agency fails, as has happened recently in Bristol, needy people could be left without any care. At present, in such cases, the council’s own team can provide emergency cover.
Conservative and Labour politicians at local and national level have united in opposition to the plans.
Bristol North West Tory MP Charlotte Leslie and Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy both spoke at a rally in Southmead on Saturday alongside Mr Loach, service user Bob Taylor, and John McInally, national vice president of the PCS union.
Jenny Smith, Labour’s spokeswoman on care at the city council, will at tomorrow night’s full council meeting call on the authority to suspend all proposals about home care and start a “proper dialogue” with interested parties.
Ms Leslie said: “While there is a place for private provision in home care, the focus must always be quality of care for our most vulnerable, and the council must work to safeguard its homecare service, which its users so value, and reduce its back office costs, not cut frontline services.” Before the meeting, hundreds of people are planning to attend an anti-cuts demonstration outside the Council House.
More than 200 people attended Saturday’s events, which included a march from the Greenway Centre to Glencoyne Square.
Steve Preddy, of the Unite union, said that the turnout of care workers had been very high, especially as it was a working day for them.
“Ken Loach is a well known socialist and spoke passionately about the need to protect care services, as did all the speakers,” he said.
Kerry McCarthy told the Evening Post: “Four years ago the people of Bristol made clear that they did not want their home care services privatised: that they trusted and liked the council’s dedicated home care workers and did not want to have to seek private sector provision.
“The Liberal Democrats didn’t listen then, and they are not listening now.
“Saturday’s demonstration showed the level of support for home care workers, and the real concerns of service users that their home care could be axed “
Cabinet member for care Dr Jon Rogers said the service was not being fully privatised but some users were likely to be switched to independent providers.