Concerns over planned change to homecare service provision

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Charities and providers fear changes to homecare services for thousands of disabled and elderly people in Lancashire are being driven by cost cutting rather than improving quality.

Lancashire County Council is looking at reducing the number of companies it uses to give domiciliary support to nearly 5,600 people.

These services are provided by a mix of 129 local and national, private and not-for-profit organisations, employing some 4,500 staff.

County Hall chiefs want to reduce this number to around 30, which they say will help ensure consistently high quality support, minimise staff travel time and lead to better terms and conditions for workers.

But critics of the move believe smaller groups with a “tried and tested” record of providing excellent care will be unable to compete with large agencies, and could even go out of business.

Around 150 companies are expected to tender for a position on a new ‘preferred providers’ list.

A director of one of the agencies, who did not wish to be named, said: “This is going to have a massive impact on a lot of smaller companies out there, who are providing a good value service and looking after service users like they would their own family.

“The personal touch of the care provision could be lost, because people will be more of a number to them.”

However, County Hall chiefs insisted they would prioritise quality over cost, and consider service users’ experiences. Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “We are working closely with the industry to establish what an appropriate number would be. We will then put the contracts out to tender.”