Staff absences at Scottish Borders Council’s arms-length care company SB Cares have cost the local authority £650,000 over the last financial year.
The main reasons for absence are maternity/paternity leave, annual leave, sickness absence and scheduled training.
Council officers believe they can shave £75,000 from the overall absence cost for the coming year, by implementing ‘improved workforce absence management’.
This will involve introducing new rota patterns, sharing staff across service areas more effectively, reducing travel time and costs through efficiency measures, ensuring sickness absence management policy is applied consistently, and providing training courses locally rather than centrally.
Sickness absence can be costly to Scottish Borders Council, as it has a statutory obligation to provide care if care is not available elsewhere, and agency staff have to be drafted in at short notice and often from out of the area.
Of the £650,000 that SB Cares lost due to staff absences, £155,000 was spent on recruiting agency staff to cover shifts.
A council spokesperson said: “SB Cares do use agency staff but only when there is a critical need to ensure clients are provided with visits and all other internal options are impracticable or impossible.”
“SB Cares provides the service of last resort function to the council, which means when other care companies can no longer provide a service to clients, we will endeavour to provide the support required.
“This often means that SB Cares are asked to take over packages of care for clients with little or no notice.”