Protesters’ fury as jobs go in £150k savings...

The UNISON protest outside Blackpool Town Hall
The UNISON protest outside Blackpool Town Hall
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Protesters demanded councillors re-think plans to axe a lifeline for vulnerable people when they held a demonstration outside Blackpool Town Hall.

Members of Unison are calling for proposals to privatise the Supported Living Service – with the loss of 52 jobs – to be thrown out.

Union leaders, staff and residents gathered outside the town hall to lobby councillors attending a full meeting of the council.

But despite their pleas, they were told there would be no “change of heart” over the issue.

Neil Smyth, assistant branch secretary for Unison at Blackpool Council, said: “Our staff have a vast wealth of experience and they have built up long relationships with the people they look after.

“Some have been with the service for 30 years. They are dedicated staff who are going to lose their jobs.

“We are concerned they will not have as good working conditions in the private sector, compared to working for the council.

“They will lose out on training, being paid a living wage and getting proper breaks, and that doesn’t make for a safe environment for the clients either.”

Staff, who did not wish to be named, said they were devastated at losing their jobs with the council.

One said: “We have a wealth of knowledge and that will be diluted to the detriment of the individuals who use the service.

“Many of them have complex needs and some have difficulty communicating what they need, so if there is not continuity in the people looking after them, it will damage the quality of their care.”

Supported Living provides 24-hour care for people with serious learning difficulties in their own homes.

Blackpool Council is handing the service over to the private sector later this year in a move which will save the authority some £150,000.

Geoffrey Hopkins, 68, of Mereside, joined the protest.

He said: “I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis so in the future I may need services such as this, but the way things are going, they might not exist by then.”

Following the demonstration, Mr Smyth addressed the council chamber.

In response Coun Eddie Collett, cabinet member for health equalities, said the service was not ceasing, but “being delivered in a different way”.

He added: “There isn’t going to be a change of heart.

“The decision has been made and the job now is to ensure things go as smoothly as possible and all of the residents remain safe.”

The service is provided to 13 people in six houses, and employs 52 people.

Of these, 18 are taking voluntary redundancy.