SOME care services run by Durham County Council are due to be privatised following a decision by senior councillors behind closed doors.

The council's cabinet met in private earlier this month to discuss a review of County Durham Care and Support, which aims to save £6 million in 2017/18.

It has not published what decision it reached at the meeting but The Northern Echo understands that it has agreed to transfer some its adult care services to the private sector, including the reablement service.

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The review, which has been going on since 2015, included all adult care services currently provided directly by the authority.

As a result, the reablement service and care provided to people in supported housing will be transferred to the private sector.

The reablement service helps people to gain new skills or relearn ones which may have been lost because of poor health, disability, impairment or accidents.

It is offered for a maximum of six weeks and includes things like offering help with personal care, carrying out daily activities and helping with practical tasks and is meant to help people remain independent.

The Northern Echo understands the changes will affect around 200 members of council staff and new contracts are due to come into effect by April 2017.

Durham’s Unison branch secretary Neville Hancock said discussions were due to start with the council and staff next week.

He said: “It’s an option we would prefer them not to do. Now that decision has been taken we need to get into consultation on that.”

“Obviously it’s something we are totally opposed to – the transfer of public sector into the private sector but that’s the decision of the cabinet.”

Jane Robinson, interim corporate director of adult services, said: “As part of our medium term financial planning process, which requires us to make council-wide savings of £181million by the end of this financial year, a review of County Durham Care and Support (CDC&S) in-house services for adults was started in 2015.

“This review explored a range of future delivery options for these services, the results of which were considered by elected members at a Cabinet meeting this month. The outcome was that the way these services are delivered will change, however the amount and quality of care that service users receive, will not be affected.

“Throughout the process, employees of CDC&S have been kept informed of progress and the result of the review has since been communicated to them.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Owen Temple, who is part of the council’s adult, wellbeing and health overview and scrutiny committee, has requested the report be considered by the panel.

“I am very concerned that Durham County Council’s cabinet has made decisions behind closed doors about changes in how care is provided to many vulnerable people, and that the decisions themselves are still being suppressed," he said.

“There may have been good reasons not to allow the public to read every detail in the report provided to cabinet, but it’s plain cynical to publish on the website, ‘The cabinet approved the recommendations contained in the report’ whilst continuing to refuse public access to it.”

The council is allowed to meet in private to discuss items which involve “exempt” or confidential information.

On this occasion it says it is unable to release information because it relates to consultations or negotiations in connection with labour relations between the authority and its employees.