Hawick councillor urges care recruitment rethink

Councillor Clair Ramage met with SB Cares bosses to discuss agency fees.
Councillor Clair Ramage met with SB Cares bosses to discuss agency fees.

Scottish Borders Council needs to act now in the face of a “tsunami of care needs”.

That’s the view of Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage, and she is urging the local authority’s administration to put a new emphasis on social care recruitment.

That call comes after it emerged that council-owned care company SB Cares is shelling out £840 per carer per day to agencies outside the Borders.

Mrs Ramage pledged to find out more after Hawick community councillor Wilson George reported that the council has been paying exorbitant amounts for carers to travel from as far away as Airdrie in North Lanarkshire to cover shifts in Hawick and surrounding areas

“I was appalled at this revelation and contacted Philip Barr, depute chief executive of SB Cares, to get some answers,” she said.

At a meeting on Friday, also attended by Lynn Crombie, SB Cares’ operational director, and other councillors, the care firm’s bosses said they wanted to minimise the use of agencies but admitted that they had been forced to draft in agency staff recently after Borders-based care staff were recruited by private agencies outwith the region.

“It was a really productive meeting but did highlight an ever-growing problem that we have in the Borders, which is only going to get worse as we have an ageing population and many people retiring here for the way of life and cheap housing,” Mrs Ramage said.

“We all want our loved ones to be cared for by professionals. My dad had carers in, and they became part of our family as we relied on them so much to help us look after him.

“SB Cares offer a career structure, training, sick pay, holiday benefits and a car, but private agencies poach SB Cares-trained staff, which then leaves gaps for those expecting their care package, due to lack of staff.”

As the only provider of last-resort care in the Borders – which means that when other care companies can no longer provide a service to clients, it is required to step in – SB Cares can be asked to take on clients with little or no notice.

“As a provider of last-resort care, SB Cares are always responsible for those needing care in our community, even when the agencies let them down or back out,” said Mrs Ramage.

Now she is urging the council to rethink its approach to recruitment for adult social care jobs.

“There are many challenges that we need to face within this sector, and one that I feel we can effect is in recruitment,” she said. “The administration need to grasp this nettle now.

“I have heard that there will be a tsunami of care needs in the next 10 years, so let’s get our heads together to help solve this problem before it is too late.”