Vulnerable assured as care outsourced

Frances Renton
Frances Renton

Assurances have been issued to vulnerable Borderers who depend on adult care services currently delivered by Scottish Borders Council.

“Our priority is to ensure service users experience the same high standard of care from the same carers,” said Councillor Frances Renton, executive member for social work.

She was commenting after a private meeting last week when councillors approved a partnership agreement for the transfer of all in-house provision, including home care, day services, extra care housing and five residential homes for the elderly, to an arms-length limited liability company called SBC Cares.

The outsourcing, which will take place on April 1, will involve the transfer – with terms and conditions intact – of nearly 1,000 full and part- time staff who currently deliver 40 per cent of all adult care in the region at an annual cost of £5.8million. The new firm will have an annual budget in excess of £17million and compete for clients with the private sector which provides 60 per cent of services at a yearly commissioning cost to the council of £4.9million.

Underpinning the switch is the need for the council to trim over £5million from its social work budget over the next five years and the advent of self-directed support (SDS) which allows service users to choose their favoured care provider.

Although details of the contractual arrangements between the council and SB Cares remain confidential, it has been confirmed that Philip Barr, one of SBC’s two depute chief executives, will be seconded to the role of interim managing director of the new company for a period of up to 18 months.

In addition to that four-day-a-week post, Mr Barr, 59, will retain oversight of the “strategic direction” of a council department whose functions include roads maintenance, waste and recycling, planning, legal services and trading standards.

Before joining the council last April, Mr Barr was head of organisational development with the City of Edinburgh Council, having previously spent 17 years as director of human resources with Scottish Brewers.

“He has extensive experience of managing change and organisational development, both in the private and public sectors,” said a council spokesperson.

A recruitment process is under way to appoint a chair and other key posts to the SB Cares board which will contain no elected councillors.

Although not involved in the day-to-day running of the company, a sub-committee of five councillors will be appointed before April 1 to “take on the role of strategic governance”.

Mrs Renton said: “People requiring a service will still need to go through the normal assessment process with social work to make sure they are given the services they need and are entitled to, but the quality of care they receive will remain the same.”

She added that all service users would be written to by the end of this month to tell them they will experience “little change” after transfer.