Jobs facing axe at Galashiels care alarm monitoring centre

The Scottish Borders Council contact centre in Paton Street, Galashiels.
The Scottish Borders Council contact centre in Paton Street, Galashiels.

About 20 workers at a care alarm monitoring centre in Galashiels face an uncertain future after it was agreed to transfer the service to East Lothian.

BorderCare alarms are fitted in thousands of homes across the region to enable users to get help if they have an accident or fall ill.

The 24-hour control centre in Paton Street, part of Scottish Borders Council’s arms-length organisation SB Cares, deals with all emergencies befalling old folk in the region signed up to the service.

Now, councillors have rubber-stamped plans to close it with the loss of around 20 jobs.

Out-of-date computer systems, and the cost of software upgrades needed, are behind the outsourcing of the service.

It has been agreed that the alarm monitoring and remote response function will be delivered in partnership with East Lothian Council.

The change is planned to take place from April next year and will create a joint centre serving East Lothian and Midlothian as well as the Borders.

Shocked staff have been told that they can transfer to the new service under their existing terms and conditions.

Alternatively, they can take up deployment to another post within SB Cares or the council. They are also being invited to apply for early retirement or voluntary severance.

Users of the service have been assured that client fees and charges will continue to be set by the council and the new arrangements will not result in any changes to them.

Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston, the council’s executive member for adult services, said: “Having considered all the options for futureproofing this service, I am convinced that this is the most effective way forward, both for Borders residents who rely on this important service and the council itself.

“It was clear that the costs of bringing the existing service up to industry standard were not viable, particularly when compared to the skilled and innovative alternative being offered to us by East Lothian Council, and I welcome the decision taken that means we can move toward working in partnership with them, with all the benefits that this will bring.”

SB Cares managing director Philip Barr added: “The decision to move to an alternative service delivery model with the potential impact that this has on staff is never easy.

“However, we have now been able to speak to all affected staff in detail, explaining the reasons why it was necessary for us to make this decision and reassuring them of our commitment to supporting them.”

“We would also like to reassure all our clients that this move will result in us being able to make substantial improvements in the quality of service that we provide.

“Midlothian Council has given us excellent feedback on the provision that their clients receive through a similar arrangement, and we are committed to making sure that Borders residents have access to the same benefits.

“We will be writing to our clients to inform them of this change and how it will benefit them.”