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Council Director Issues Statement on Social Work Services

12th April 2008

The Highland Council's Director of Social Work has issued a statement clarifying proposed changes to Social Work services following a letter issued to the media by Peter Peacock MSP.

Director of Social Work, Harriet Dempster said: "The Council is seeking to avoid compulsory redundancies. Where there are changes in service all efforts will be made to redeploy staff and use their skills and expertise in new ways. I am confident that we will achieve this within social work services. It is important to see the reduction of some staff as being the impact of the service achieving benefits and efficiencies following the investment in a new IT system which has in fact resulted in more efficient business processes. This is linked mostly to the more effective way we have of recording information on the computer as opposed to paper records where things were transcribed and manual systems of information collection which were very time consuming.

"Mr Peacock mentions savings in learning disabilities. The Council would want to reassure Peter Peacock, and more importantly service users and staff, that the aim is to address underutilisation of some services still running on traditional lines and modernise the approach in line with ~the same as you report~ issues by the Scottish Executive and what is referred to as self directed support and more personalised and individually tailored services.

"Currently we have some people from Highland who have been placed in resources outwith Highland. This is both expensive and not best practice in terms of seeking to maintain and support people in the area so they can sustain contact with family and friends. The proposals which were presented to the Housing and Social Work Committee on 12 March involve commissioning a local service to provide for these people and seeking a change of use of a current facility in Brora to cater for these needs on the basis that there is both alternative residential respite provision and the opportunity to offer what is called respite without walls ie short breaks not in an institution. The Council has committed to engaging with staff and users and carers and meetings with managers are ongoing.

"Furthermore a larger key stakeholder event is planned to consider the further modernisation of Learning Disabilities services and a move away from services being centre based. The aim is to seek to secure supported employment college places for more of the users and to develop more individual support packages to enable this. We anticipate that reducing reliance on centres will enable some cost savings across centres. This will be subject to consultation before any changes to take place. It is not envisage that all centres will close as is being suggested albeit there will be change."

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