Council carers moved to arms-length body

A new era has dawned for around 800 Scottish Borders Council carers and their vulnerable clients.

It came with the official launch of SB Cares, a limited liability partnership still owned by the council, but empowered to compete with private care providers.

“We are venturing into new territory,” said Councillor Frances Renton, executive member for social work.

On Wednesday, the in-house staff officially ceased to be council employees and joined the arms-length organisation, which has its own logo and new staff uniforms.

With an annual budget of around £17million, it takes over the council services delivered in clients’ homes, in five residential care homes and in extra care housing. Day services, Bordercare Alarm and the Borders Ability Equipment Service have also been transferred.

The decision to outsource adult care across the region was agreed last October, with social work savings of £5million required over the next five years.

The advent of self-directed support, whereby clients are given the cash to select their own care provider, was also a major factor.

SB Cares will thus strive to increase the 40 per cent market share of care services which the council has previously delivered.

“This is a significant milestone, but having witnessed the commitment shown by all parties, I am confident it is in the best interests of everyone,” said Mrs Renton.

“Going forward, there will be opportunities for service users to purchase additional services directly from SB Cares, which has the full backing of the council. This can only enhance the quality and range of social care services in the region.”

Elaine Firth, manager of the Bordercare Alarm service, said: “Staff are very positive about the change and the potential of the business for future growth. I think we are all keen to get on and be the best we can be.”

Eck Barclay, Unite’s convener at SBC, said he was satisfied with the commitment from the new company to collectively bargain with his union, which represents most of the transferred home carers.

“Although nationally we are opposed to public services being outsourced, this has been handled well by the council and we appreciate that new staff coming in will be entitled to the same terms and conditions as the staff they replace,” he said.

“We will obviously monitor the progress of the company to safeguard the interests of our members and their vulnerable clients.”

Although there will be no councillors on the board of SB Cares, its performance will be overseen by a sub-committee of elected members whose approval will be required for all contracts and transactions worth more than £50,000, as well as for any cuts, or additions, to services offered.

The endorsement of the full council will be required on all staffing matters affecting terms and conditions, including potential compulsory redundancies and any changes to pension arrangements.