ATEC24 (assistive technology enabled care) provides alarms and equipment for elderly and vulnerable citizens to help them live safely in their own homes. The Monitoring and Response service within ATEC24 handles calls from provides emergency responders to device alerts and calls from service users. Monitoring and Response Officers’ time is split between handling the calls that come in and responding to them by visiting service users in their homes. It is a challenging and highly skilled role that faces varied emergency situations.
The work of ATEC24 is invaluable. However, members have raised concerns about the pressures on the service and radical proposals that impact on the workforce.
Understaffed and overworked
The Monitoring and Response service is not adequately staffed—this has been the case for well over 18 months.
The extreme workloads are a health and safety risk to workers and impact the service for clients.
Outsourcing call handling
The Council are temporarily outsourcing call handling to allow for changes to technology and to provide training. While temporary outsourcing is not a problem in itself, the execution of the plan has created risks for workers and clients, due to ignoring the voices of the workers that do the job.
Since call handling was transferred, several changes have been forced through without consultation or information, despite assurances around these prior to the transfer. Workers have seen promises made then broken within the space of weeks. Some of these measures place workers and clients at risk.
Workers believe that there are not sufficient numbers of devices. The service has been forced to rely on installing devices with low batteries. This places service users at risk.
Following an meeting with management in December 2021, Unite wrote a letter to Judith Proctor, the head of Health and Social Care, and Andrew, the Council’s Chief Executive, in January 2022, expressing our concerns and calling for an immediate halt to the plans to outsource.
Graeme Smith, branch convener, raised the plight of ATEC24 workers with the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) at the 8 February 2022 meeting. The video below contains the part of the deputation on ATEC24 and Board members’ comments. We encourage members in the area to watch the discussion following the deputation, particularly from 1:04:25 where the Board summarises their commitments.
Outcomes of initial discussions
Following the discussions at the start of 2022 we agreed the following:
- Fortnightly meetings between senior management and the trade unions
- A document of frequently asked questions (FAQs) issued to clarify concerns—this will continue to be updated as concerns arise
- A commitment from the EIJB to include ATEC24 in the system pressures report
- A commitment from the EIJB to provide their members with a briefing note on the situation in ATEC24, ensuring councillors have oversight of the issues
- Proposals around electric vehicles paused.
Life without call handling
Call handling was transferred to Newham Borough Council in May.
Unfortunately, by June, promises made in the FAQ were already been broken and despite the regular meetings with unions and assurance that team meetings were being used effective, a host of changes were pushed through without informing the workers.
Many of the problems workers had initially raised as fear about working without call handling in-house were coming to fruition before their eyes. The situation was so perilious that it was reported in the Evening News.
The industrial action ballot
To ensure the health and safety of workers, and protect the service to the clients, we are calling for
- an assurance of two-person response teams
- an assurance of at least two teams per shift—allowing overtime to facilitate this.
- call handlers to follow response protocols, rather than relying on families as the first responders
- the restoration of tasks and responsibilities to Co-ordinators and Senior Officers to allow effective local management.
We also called for mediated meetings, so workers can openly discuss issues and assure their voices are heard. From this, we hope to arrive at a way of working in future that respects workers and ensures they have an effective voice.
The ballot opened on 20 July and will close on 3 August.
All members in Monitoring and Response will be balloted, covering
- Monitoring and Response Officers
- Senior Officers
- ATEC24 Co-ordinators.
All striking members will receive £70 per day strike pay.
The Council have stated a commitment to resolving the situation without industrial action and we continue to engage in talks to come to an amicable solution that works for workers and vulnerable citizens.