Day centres for elderly Borderers facing axe

Deanfield in Hawick.
Deanfield in Hawick.

More day centres for elderly Borderers are facing the axe.

Scottish Borders Council’s executive is set to vote next week on plans to scrap its current older people’s day services.

A report set to go before councillors next Tuesday, June 4, proposes that what is described as a local area co-ordination model be employed instead.

That involves old folk being paired with a local area co-ordinator able to point them in the direction of services such as volunteer-led social centres.

According to the report, the closure of the council’s day services will result in job losses if no suitable alternative positions can be found for day service staff.

Officers had estimated that decommissioning the council’s day services will save £208,000 this financial year and deliver a permanent £350,000 saving from the year after.

However, a delay in recruiting new staff, required to be in place before the switchover, has reduced the projected saving of £208,000 this year to just £50,000.

Among the centres operated by the council’s arm’s-length organisation SB Cares are Oakview Day Centre in Galashiels, Deanfield Day Centre in Hawick and ones in Jedburgh and Kelso.

The council has already closed Saltgreens Day Centre in Eyemouth after creating a joint unit at Eyemouth Day Hospital.

The report, written by chief officer for adult service Michael Murphy, reads: “Despite significant increases in the numbers of older people living in our communities and accessing social care services, the volume of clients using day services has reduced in number from 240 in 2014-15 to 43 in 2019.

“There is considerable overlap between day centres and social centres such as providing transport, meals and social opportunities.

“Day centres provide personal care, whereas in social centres personal care would be provided by other means, such as a personal assistant.

“The current daily charge for a day service placement is £48, whereas a social centre charge is £10.

“As the transformation proceeds, social centres will be kept under review to ensure that they meet the accessibility and volume requirements for a buildings-based option.

“Each locality will have a local area co-ordination team consisting of a local area coordinator and link workers.

“The volume of staff will reflect the local population and needs. The team will hold a caseload of people who are in need of daytime opportunities.

“Local area co-ordinators engage with people and discuss what interests they have and what activities they would like to be involved in.

“Activities can range from pursuing an interest in fishing, attending a walking or gentle exercise group, through to attending a local soup and sandwich club.

“With their knowledge of the locality, local area co-ordinators build up a range of opportunities for older adults to get involved with and contribute to their local community.

“If they identify a gap in provision, they engage with partners to develop new ideas and groups that meet a community’s need.”

Day service users were told about the changes by the council in March after meetings were called by the Kelso and Jedburgh day service teams.

However, Galashiels day service users have not been briefed as the council says the decommissioning of day services will “not impact on Oakview in the same way”.

The council’s health chief, Rob McCulloch-Graham, said: “The research carried out as part of our review of the provision of support services for older people showed us that the numbers of people using traditional day services was in decline and there was a growing preference for other, more effective, localised options.

“We therefore needed to look at introducing more robust, community based models that would enable us to improve options and outcomes for older people and their families.

“The local area co-ordination approach was already proving successful for other client groups, and we were confident that it would be equally beneficial for older adults.

“It would also build on and expand the work of our community-capacity building team who co-ordinate a wide range of popular activities and volunteering opportunities across the region and our ongoing aim of providing a more community-based day opportunity model.

“Following on from the introduction of the approach in Berwickshire, we are now asking the executive to note our intention to proceed with the expansion across the rest of the Borders, which will include meeting with day service users and their families to explain more about our plans and the benefits that the introduction of a new type of service could bring to them.

“Briefings have been held with those members of staff likely to be impacted on by the proposals, and these will be ongoing should we receive agreement to proceed.”