Changes to home care services in the Borders are on the cards

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DEMAND for home care and other services needed by an increasingly elderly population across the region has made Scottish Borders Council take stock of how they are provided.

From a starting point of the status quo, which according to council leader David Parker “isn’t providing what we need”, and taking into account the possibility that the current private sector input is not sustainable, the council is looking at a completely new way of providing future home care services.

Home care provision is currently a 50-50 split of carers employed by SBC and private companies but the model being looked at for the future is for the council to set up an arms-length company that will provide a full range of home care services. That way the services provided to elderly clients in the Borders will still be under the council control; the expectation being that they would also be more efficient and overheads would be reduced.

Should this model of providing home care services prove to be both effective and efficient then it could be the way forward for other council services in the future. In the meantime the council is looking at increasing client contributions for home care services as they try to reduce the bill by £150,000 in the next financial year.

A care service that is proving particularly costly to the council is the waking and sleep-in support to people in registered accommodation, group living situations and their own homes - £1.18 million a year.

In the council’s five year budget plan it says: “There is a significant number of high cost home-based care packages in excess of the cost of a residential care home placement. It is proposed to review these packages and, where appropriate, reduce provision based on need.”

“There is huge pressure on the council to deliver services to older people,” said SBC’s chief financial officer, David Robertson, explaining why the services were selected to pilot the arms-length model.

The pressures are highlighted in the five year budget plan which states: “Costs of delivering in-house council services are under increasing pressure from increasing demographics and staff costs.

“The council has a good reputation for delivering a good quality service and are proposing to look at alternative delivery models such as arms-length external organisations.

“The initial review would focus on social care and health services such as home care, care homes, day services and Bordercare, but could be expanded once a new sustainable model has been developed. The benefits to the council would be: member-owned; low overheads/pay for what you get/economies of scale; improved financial and non financial performance.”

If setting up this arms-length organisation went as planned, the council estimates it could make a saving of £617,000 in the 2015/16 financial year and £637,000 the following year.

There are a number of examples of councils across the UK creating arms-length companies to provide some of their services.The model being looked at by SBC is the Glasgow based Cordia organsiation which provides home care, school catering, cleaning and other services for public sector, local government and private sector organisations.

In Glasgow Cordia provides: over 400 elderly people with meals at home; 64,000 hours of weekly help and care assistance; and 110,000 visits to clients’ homes every week.