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Walsall Council extends care contract after providers threaten to quit

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | Health | Published:

Walsall Council has extended its contract with home care providers which had been due to be re-tendered within weeks amid claims organisations were ready to walk away in a dispute over pay.

Walsall Council House

The authority has triggered a one-year extension clause with providers in the borough.

Care bosses say they believe the move was made to avoid the authority being left with a shortage of providers.

The contract had been due to go out to tender in December and agreed by April but the council has decided to put off negotiations amid an ongoing row.

Council chiefs faced a backlash over a policy change in August which saw carers visiting the homes of elderly and vulnerable people paid by the minute.

The director of one company which provides care in Walsall said he was prepared to walk away from Walsall before the contract was extended.

He said: "They were going to tender around Christmas. I told them flatly I'm not renewing because I think it's a disgrace.

"They told us there would be a new contract in April but now they've triggered that clause to carry on for another year."

It comes after a council memo to providers leaked to the Express & Star revealed dozens of elderly and vulnerable people are being put at “risk” by a backlog of cases, amid claims some providers are taking less work in the borough as a result of the pay change.

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Firms were told this week care needed arranging for 70 people "as a matter of urgency".

The change to pay per minute in Walsall sparked uproar among care providers.

Previously, carers who were with a patient on a home visit for at least 23 minutes would be paid for the full half hour.

It has led to concerns carers will choose to work elsewhere in the Black Country where pay is more competitive.

A Walsall Council spokeswoman said: "When the council went out to tender in 2017, the initial contract term was for two years with an option for the council to extend the term by two separate, additional 12-month periods.

"It is routine for the council to do this, particularly in cases such as this where the procurement exercise is complex and costly and involves the purchase of high-value critical care and support services for vulnerable members of the community, for whom continuity of service is vital."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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