New era for adult social care as service for Leeds’s learning disabled goes it alone

NEW ERA: Carer Lynn Nettleton - one of 700 staff at the Learning Disability Service -  combs  Linda Johnson's hair at Delph View in Woodhouse. Picture by Tony Johnson.

NEW ERA: Carer Lynn Nettleton - one of 700 staff at the Learning Disability Service - combs Linda Johnson's hair at Delph View in Woodhouse. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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A pioneering new social enterprise will lead the way in providing care and support for more than a thousand vulnerable adults in Leeds.

A five year contract, which will see Aspire Community Benefit Society take over the council’s Learning Disability Service, was officially launched this week at Leeds Town Hall during a special event with staff and service users.

The new model will mean the Learning Disability Service, which has an annual budget of £22m and supports more than 1,000 local people, will be owned and operated entirely by those who work for the service as part of a staff-led mutual.

The transfer has also seen Aspire become one of the country’s largest ever “spin outs” of a public service.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for health, wellbeing and adults, said: “This is a unique and exciting project for a service which is a genuine lifeline for more than a thousand of our city’s most vulnerable people.

“Under this new model, service users will still be working with the same people, in the same buildings. The crucial difference will be that staff who work so hard to provide these services will be in charge of their own destiny, empowered to operate independently and attract new business in a highly competitive market.”

The Learning Disability Service currently employs more than 700 staff, who have transferred to Aspire with the same terms and conditions.

Staff, trade unions, service users and their families have all been consulted on the proposals and their views have been used to shape the new mutual and how it will operate.

Councillor Mulherin added: “Demand for the Learning Disability Service is increasing all the time which, because of the unprecedented financial challenges we are facing as a council, has put an unsustainable pressure on our budget.

“We have worked closely with staff and service users for over a year to come up with a service model which incorporates the best elements of the former council service coupled with the passion and spirit of civic enterprise which will be so important to making this new model a success.

“The result is this innovative and ambitious venture which will see Leeds blazing a trail in ensuring key public services have a sustainable and socially responsible future.”

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