SEVERELY disabled and mentally ill people face being “thrown on the scrapheap” with the council axe of a successful scheme helping them find work, unions say.
Coventry Unison says it places in doubt Coventry City Council Labour leaders’ pledge to protect “the most vulnerable” from cuts, and will end up costing the taxpayer more in benefits.
Coventry Unison is protesting against plans to scrap The Employment Support Service (TESS) for vulnerable adults and young people with learning disabilities, autism and severe mental ill health.
Unison says these vulnerable people, their families and employers themselves while miss out because of a “tick-box” cuts culture.
It is estimated the scheme costs the taxpayer £300,000 a year.
The union is also unhappy with proposed job cuts at the successful Job Shop in Coventry city centre.
It says 10 posts posts will be deleted at the award-winning TESS project, putting all post holders at risk of redundancy.
Two specialist employment advisor roles held by “experienced expert staff” would be lost at the Job Shop, to be replaced by new staff at a lower grade.
Sarah Feeney, Coventry City Unison branch secretary said: “This review proposal gives the impression that council members and senior managers in Place Directorate see services like TESS as an ‘optional extra’, ‘fluffy’ or ‘nice to do’.
“They are not – they are the very core of council provision, supporting those most in need.
“TESS and the Job Shop give Coventry people, who are struggling, the help they need to get a job and financial security for themselves and their families.
“We will not benefit from all the new investment and buildings in Coventry, if local residents looking for work are thrown back on the scrapheap, carry on being dependent on benefits and are kept out of the picture when it comes to the new jobs on offer.”
The union says TESS is a unique service in Coventry, and no other services are able to continue this work.
TESS won a national award for its service only last year, winning Team of the Year from the British Association for Supported Employment (BASE) for its work encouraging employers to give jobs to the less advantaged.
TESS was also awarded Centre of Excellence status by the Centre for Mental Health, for its work with people with severe mental health difficulties.
Unison is urging the council to bid for European funding to support and enhance the services, rather than axe them.
It is sceptical of vague council claims that ‘alternative’ funding or volunteers could provide such services in future.
THE COUNCIL SAYS
David Cockroft, Assistant Director (City Centre and Development Services) said: “As part of a review of the Council’s Economy and Jobs Service one of the proposals is that The Employment Support Service (TESS) will close at the end of July 2015.
“Given the significant reduction in resources, both council and external funding, there are some elements of the service can no longer be funded.
“However, at this stage it is important to state that this is a proposal – no decisions have yet been made. We are currently in consultation with staff and after 21 April when the consultation ends we will review any comments or counter proposals before any final decisions are made.
“As things stand, TESS cannot be sustained on an on-going basis by council resources. Whilst competitive applications for European Funding will be pursued to support services for a wide range of vulnerable groups, there is no guarantee that funds will be awarded.
“Even if we do secure funding it is likely that any grant funding will only meet half of the costs of any activity.
“These are difficult decisions, but we are working hard to ensure services for vulnerable people are maintained where possible, external funding is pursued or appropriate alternatives considered.”