Re-think call as Gala trust loses young carers contract

L-r Fiona Morrison and Lynn Gallacher of the Princess Royal Trust Borders Centre Youth Carers Project in Galashiels, which will be closing the service to children and young people at the end of March.
L-r Fiona Morrison and Lynn Gallacher of the Princess Royal Trust Borders Centre Youth Carers Project in Galashiels, which will be closing the service to children and young people at the end of March.

A GALASHIELS-BASED carers service has called for a “level playing field” after losing a £75,000 young carers contract to one of the largest charities in the UK.

Six jobs will go at the Princess Royal Trust Borders Carers Centre after the decision by a tender panel – including officers from Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders – to name Action for Children as the new provider.

The trust had provided the service for the past 11 years and its strategic development manager, Fiona Morrison, fears for the 120 young carers it supported.

Mrs Morrison said: “The impact on the young carers who we have built up a relationship with is a big concern.

“We are also losing experienced staff and it is a really big loss for us.

“We have never had a bad report from the council or NHS – they have always seemed happy with the service we have provided.

“When we have been asked to make changes we have done so very quickly.

“When it comes to the tendering process, we need a level playing field. Action for Children employ 7,000 staff. We have 13 staff and are now losing three of them (along with three sessional workers and three volunteers).”

Mrs Morrison added that the trust had “challenged” the panel’s choice as she did not feel the decision had been properly explained.

But she admitted: “At the moment I doubt very much that the decision will be reconsidered.”

The contract for young carers was due to be reduced to £50,000 by SBC, but the administration performed a U-turn at last month’s budget meeting after lobbying by Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison.

He pointed out that an independent survey in 2006 argued the local authority was getting £100,000-worth of value from the agreement with the Princess Royal Trust.

A month on, councillor Aitchison said he was “really disappointed” with the panel’s decision.

He told TheSouthern: “I really hope that the relationships that have been built up over the years between the present carers and their clients will not be interrupted in the process of change.

“I have questioned the need for the tendering process since this was a service which was acknowledged to be ‘good value’ but it appears that legislation gets in the way of common sense sometimes and local groups invariably suffer from the tendering process which the council has to be seen to follow.”

The trust, based at Low Buckholmside, has provided support through one-to-one and group meetings, as well as school visits and respite care breaks for youngsters looking after older family members.

But Action for Children, with a gross annual income of £195million, will take over the contract next Friday.

Glenn Rodger, SBC’s director of education and lifelong learning said: “We are looking forward to working with Action for Children who are well known for being the largest provider of family support services in the UK.

“The appointment of a new service provider will not diminish the services young carers receive but we hope it will enhance them and I am confident that our young carers will receive the quality support that they require from the new service provider.”

An SBC statement added that the tender process was carried out in accordance with the European Union’s principles of equality.

An Action for Children spokesman said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract to support young carers in the Borders.

“We have extensive experience in providing highly valued services to young people across Scotland, including one of the first ever young carers’ projects which we set up in North Lanarkshire more than 15 years ago and continue to run.

“We are looking forward to working closely with Borders council and NHS Borders to provide the highest standard of support for young carers.”