Merger of health services defended by council boss

Sandwell | News | Published:

A controversial move to merge two mental health services in Sandwell that will lead to job losses at the authority, has been defended by a council chief.

Sandwell Council's In2Work and Mental Health Vocational Services, both housed in the Lyng Centre in West Bromwich, are set to be merged in a plan aimed at saving the authority money. It needs to save £120 million by 2016. The move will result in a number of staff positions being 'deleted', although it is not yet known how many jobs are actually at risk.

The council's decision-making cabinet has given the green light to move ahead with the scheme, and a 45-day consultation period with affected employees and unions has now begun. Councillor Yvonne Davies, the borough's adult services chief, said: "The service is in need of modernisation.

"There's a lot of old fashioned provision that just needs being brought up to date. Consultation has now begun to see how we can go about brining those services into one single entity. We need to save more money wherever we can but actually these services have needed modernising for some time."

"We need to make sure we're providing the best services we can."

The services were originally jointly-funded between the council and the Primary Care Trust, but after the latter's abolition the council took on sole responsibility.

It has since conducted a review of the services, and officers suggested the restructure. Officers found that although the Mental Health Vocational Services' work is to support people into training courses, this 'has not translated into a significant throughput of people going on to successfully access employment'.

It has not yet been made clear how much the council could save from the move, but chiefs plan to try and relocate any workers whose posts are under threat to employment elsewhere within the authority.

If that exercise does not bear fruit, the staff will be made redundant.

It is the latest restructure proposed by the council, as it tries to remodel services and make £120m savings by 2016, in the wake of Government funding cuts. Last month, hundreds of teenagers descended on its Oldbury council house to noisily voice their protest against a £5.3 million reduction to the youth service's budget.

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