Taking care going forward

There has been a spate of lurid stories revealing shocking treatment of vulnerable people by so-called carers in recent years.

Secret filming in homes has brought this dreadful state of affairs to our television screens.

Thankfully, the culprits only make up a tiny minority of care workers who do a difficult, often stressful job for what many of us would describe as poor financial reward. Indeed, it’s a task which a large section of the working population would refuse or be unable to perform.

So when Scottish Borders Council (SBC) decided to outsource adult care across the region last autumn, there was a collective shudder down the spines of care workers and their clients. And this week around 800 staff ceased to be council employees, moving to the arm’s-length SB Cares organisation which, although still local authority-owned, will be able to compete with the private sector.

The initial signs are positive.

Frances Renton, SBC’s executive member for social work, has been impressed by the commitment shown by all parties, but perhaps more significant are the words of local union leader Eck Barclay: “Although nationally we are opposed to public services being outsourced, this has been handled well by the council.”

Going forward, all sides would do well to recall what Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote in 1998: “Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members.”