Greenwich Council staff are threatening to strike from 13 September over cuts to its Telecare service, which is used by 2,000 vulnerable people in the borough.
The Unite union says that people who call for help will be visited by one person instead of two from Monday, while charges of £6 per week will be introduced for people on housing benefit.
Staff will also be expected to work a “bizarre” night shift beginning at 1.30am, the union says.
Vulnerable adults can sign up for the Telecare service so they can call for assistance when they have a fall or need help. It allows people to live independently rather than go into care. Users usually wear a pendant which has an alarm button they can press.
Seven staff work on the scheme, and they have all voted to strike to “defend the service”, the union says.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The council has a five-star Telecare service that it is attacking without taking into consideration the views of the Telecare workers with many years of loyal service.
“The dispute stems from council bosses wanting to restrict visits and calls to one staff member for emergencies and also to introduce a new night shift which begins bizarrely at 01.30. Who starts work at such a strange time?
“Two carers are required for those with such conditions as dementia and curvature of the spine who have fallen and then require assistance involving the raiser lifting chair.”
He added: “To compound this, the council is proposing to change its long-held policy of not charging people on housing benefit for their Telecare Service. This will result in some of the vulnerable Greenwich residents paying £6.00 per week, £312 per year, which they can ill-afford.
“The proposed change to this charging policy will result in many vulnerable people withdrawing from the Telecare service and the unintended consequence will be more costly care packages.”
‘Flawed, mean-spirited plan’
Kasab said that the union had “tried to negotiate with the council” and had produced a workable rota to protect the service.
He continued: “We have tried to negotiate with the authority and have produced a workable rota. We have also called on the council to fill the vacancies that currently exist – 178 staffing hours are vacant each week.
“We now have a window of opportunity before the strike action starts on 13 September and we call on the council to urgently reconsider this flawed, mean-spirited plan.”
Unite Greenwich branch secretary Danny Hoggan said: “Telecare provides a valuable service to adults of all ages who need support to live independently in the community.
“The support can be as simple has someone getting stuck in a chair or a serious fall in the home that could be life threatening.
“The social care budget is £18 million underfunded, and downgrading the Telecare service can only lead to more expensive carer packages.”
A council spokesperson told 853 this morning: “The five-star telecare service we are able to deliver is reliant on our valued workforce and their contributions to maintaining the service is greatly appreciated. We have not changed the shift times and are discussing any proposed changes with the Telecare Association.
“We remain open for staff and union discussions, as we are determined to maintain this five-star service, so that vulnerable members of our community receive the support they need in their homes.”
In February, Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe said that the council was at the “end of the line” because of years of government cuts to its funding.
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