Borders council drawing up proposals to axe trouble-hit care firm

Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.
Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.

Borders council bosses are considering scrapping their trouble-hit arm’s-length care service and bringing it back under direct control. 

SB Cares, launched by Scottish Borders Council in April 2015, has faced significant upheaval over the last two years, including four managerial suspensions and several critical care inspections.

Now, the council is considering whether to take its services back in-house so it can directly oversee the provision of care in the Borders and ensure it is up to scratch. 

Councillors will consider a full report on that proposed move at the next full meeting of the authority, currently scheduled for Thursday, September 26.

A council spokesperson said: “As part of our Fit for 2024 transformation programme, the council is conducting a review of all services. 

“This includes SB Cares as a council-owned limited liability partnership and is aimed at ensuring that we provide the best possible care to the people of the Scottish Borders.

“A report is being prepared for full council at the end of September which will consider the future operating arrangements for SB Cares as part of the Fit for 2024 programme. 

“This may include a recommendation to bring SB Cares back under the direct control of Scottish Borders Council. 

“SB Cares staff have been briefed on this position and reassured that, should there be any changes, these will not affect their terms and conditions.

“Further staff briefings will be provided in due course.”

Earlier this month, the council called in government healthcare watchdogs to Deanfield Care Home in Hawick after finding that the quality of care there had fallen below an acceptable standard. 

And at a council meeting last week, councillors heard that officers plan to invest £1m-plus in the struggling care home as part of an improvement plan.

The involvement of the Scottish Government’s Care Inspectorate at Deanfield care home is not the first time healthcare watchdogs have been called in. 

In July last year, it was revealed that SB Cares was ordered to make improvements to staff training at Deanfield Care Home back in May 2017.

However, a year later, care home inspectors once again had to demand that staff training be improved, despite initially asking for it to be completed within six weeks.

In that same month, inspectors revealed that the toilet facilities at Oakview Day Centre in Galashiels were placing users “at an unnecessary level of risk”.

SB Cares were first warned about the toilet facilities at Oakview in October 2016, but in July 2018 a repeat inspection found that improvement works had not been carried out.

A similar pattern was found at SB Cares’ Home Care East service in March 2016.

The care service was given a six-week timescale to implement improvements, known as requirements, but when care watchdogs inspected the service again in February 2017 the requirement to improve had to be reiterated, and again SB Cares was given six weeks to improve.

Then in March 2018, inspectors found that that SB Cares had still not implemented the requirement and has had to be told to improve the personal plans of its service users a third time.