WEEKS after it had to respond to concerns from both service users and carers in Berwickshire, Scottish Borders Council is letting the public have its say on future services for older people by hosting a series of public engament events.
The public engagement document, 'Proposals for the Future', will be circulated widely and sets out major changes in the way that support services could be delivered in 10 years' time.
Its publication marks the end of the first stage of the Transforming Older Peoples Services review which proposes a mixture of some new services, adapting existing services for new purposes, and continuing some traditional services – although on a smaller scale.
There will be ample opportunity for people in Berwickshire to have their views heard with events in Coldstream, Duns and Eyemouth over the next five weeks.
In Eyemouth, it is proposed that Saltgreens will be re-designed to provide a mix of specialist residential care for people with dementia, enhanced care, residential short breaks, intermediate care and assessment beds. However, as a result, the number of places will reduce from 39 to 27.
But Councillor Alec Nicol, SBC executive committee member, said that although there won't be as many places, the facilities should be there to address a broader range of conditions.
"Whilst there might be a reduced number of beds, by providing a more specialised mix of services, Saltgreens will be able to offer a greater variety of care."
Independent reviews of key services including Scottish Borders Council's care homes found that the care home in Eyemouth did not meet future accommodation standards.
And Councillor Nicol conceded that the council has to face up to the fact that some of its buildings are no longer up to scratch.
"The fact that people are living longer and there is now a greater percentage of older people in our communities than ever before has put a strain on some of our facilties.
"Surveys, such as the ones carried out as part of the 'Transforming Older Peoples' Services review, have found that the physical condition of some of the council's buildings is simply not up to the required standard. The whole point of the review is to address these types of problems sooner rather than later."
In Duns, home to Boston Court and Turnbull Court, it is proposed to commission a new type of care facility in the town to provide nursing care, specialist care for people with dementia and enhanced care. Some specialist dementia day care will continue to be provided.
The Transforming Older Peoples' Services Review' follows its Transforming Children's Services' predecessor, which wasn't so warmly received by the people of Duns.
One of its recommendations was that the council cut its ties with the town's Volunteer Hall, without any prior consultation with the community, and although that decision has since been reversed, Councillor Nicol said that the council has learnt its lesson.
"The meetings are so important because they give carers, managers, patients and their families the chance to make their feelings known.
"The council did not engage effectively with people in Duns with regard to the Volunteer Hall and we've learnt from that. This consultation will be done thoroughly and in a way that everyone can contribute."
The review states that most key services are already in place in Coldstream, but there could be a difference of opinion on how effective the council's current handling of these is.
A few weeks ago the daughter of someone looked after at their home in Coldstream, got in touch with 'The Berwickshire News', concerned that the standard of care had slipped following the new contracts for home carers in May.
And the carers themselves have also taken issue with some of the changes, with home carers particularly disappointed that they hadn't been consulted prior to the new contracts being brought into action.
Responding to these claims, SBC's head of health and social care, Elaine Torrance, acknowledged that there had been teething problems in the Coldstream area but said a meeting had been held with all involved to iron these out.
She commented: "Most people tell us that they want to stay at home in their later years. People have rising expectations of future care services. They want a greater say in how care is provided and, quite rightly, expect to receive high standards of care."
Director of social work, Andrew Loew, added: "We are facing a significant demographic challenge and the number of people aged over 75 in the Borders is set to almost double in the next 20 years. The council therefore needs to start planning now to make sure that we develop affordable services to meet future aspirations."
You can have your say by going along to one of themeetings in Berwickshire. They all run from 6.30-8.30pm and will take place at the Rodger Hall, Coldstream on Thursday, August 20; Volunteer Hall, Duns on Thursday, September 3, and Eyemouth Church Hall on Wednesday, September 9.
'Proposals for the Future', Your views sought on can be viewed at www.scotborders.gov.uk/tops.