Changes to homecare services for disabled and elderly people in Lancashire will reduce choice and could cost jobs, a current provider claims.
The Evening Post previously reported that Lancashire County Council is working to reduce the number of companies it uses to give domiciliary support to nearly 5,600 people from 129 to between 20 and 30.
However, Nicolla Bishop who runs Home Angels Chorley and cares for around 15 clients referred by County Hall said reducing the number of providers will reduce the choice and could force her to cut staff.
She said: “We were forbidden from bidding due to our newness and size, as were almost every other agency in the town.
“It was not based on quality but size. We could only bid if we formed consortiums with each other, but this would force us small agencies into becoming big businesses, which none of us want. We have been told that our clients will be taken off us and their care awarded to the bid winners.
“Most of my council funded clients have chosen to use us based on word of mouth.
“These changes mean I may need to axe around three full time jobs. But I am deeply concerned at the human cost to people needing care. They can no longer choose who they wish to use.”
Steve Gross, executive director of adult services, health and wellbeing at LCC, said the changes will be handled ‘sensitively’.
He said: “We have agreed with homecare providers that we need to reduce the number of agencies operating within Lancashire, and we are currently in a bidding process for the new contracts.
“Agencies of any size have been able to bid, but as we’ll be awarding £1m worth of long-term contracts, we’re obviously looking for providers with a strong business model and a proven track record of providing of high-quality services. That is why we’ve said providers who want to bid for a contract must have been registered with the CQC, the national care services regulator, for a minimum of three years.
“At the beginning of the review, we wrote to everyone who has homecare arranged by the county council to explain the changes and to ask them for their views, and we will be writing to them again over the next month.
“We understand that some people will have concerns, and we would like to reassure everyone that nothing will change overnight and that the process will be handled sensitively.
“In the longer term, we believe the new contracts will mean an even better quality of service. Crucially, the new arrangements will still give people the option of having a direct payment and making their own decisions about how they meet their care needs, including using any registered homecare agency of their choice or employing their own care worker.”
The new scheme is to begin early in 2015 and will be introduced gradually over a period of six to 12 months.