An award-winning Angus charity has warned the safety of older and disabled people will be put at risk if Angus Council withdraws funding used to help the vulnerable live safely in their own homes.
Angus Care and Repair is urging the local authority to reverse a decision to cut the services it provides from a tender process which opens in February.
The group warns, if the council does not back down, it will be forced to close in July when the funding for its dementia enablement service from a national charity ceases.
Such a move would cost 10 jobs and a service which has helped 61,500 clients over the last 24 years.
Board members met in Forfar this week where the stark facts were laid bare – if the council does not go back to the status quo there is no viable future.
In a damning statement manager Judith Leslie and chairman Jim Johnston claimed the service, which helps older and disabled people and those living with dementia by adapting, repairing or upgrading their homes, has been operating for the last few years under a cloud of broken promises from the Integration Joint Board, a partnership between Angus Council and NHS Tayside.
They said: “Last year we were told by the IJB we would have to cut our costs by 15%, which we negotiated down to 10%.
“Five years previously we had a similar cut amounting to £50,000 which caused us to lose our Safe as Houses project, an initiative which cut down on crime and fear of crime, and meant we had to start charging for small repairs.
“We were told last December, if we accepted the cut, we would not be put out to tender or have the funding cut again for three years.”
In July a prior information notice for a tender was released by Angus Council on behalf of the IJB for part of their services, with no prior consultation.
Ms Leslie said: “Home safety, which not only highlights but also remedies any hazards, and assistance for major or small repairs, are not going to be part of the tender.
“The only small parts of the service to be retained are assistance for major adaptations when referred through the IJB and a minor adaption service without the anticipatory care or preventative elements of our current work.
“The proposals will result in more people having falls and they will have less independence.”
Mr Johnston warned the loss of service and personal contact offered by Care and Repair could put lives at risk.
He said: “We are sitting at a precipice. The people of Angus need to know they are not going to get the vital support and care we offer, it is being wiped out by the IJB which will not save money but may increase accidents and falls in the home and cause additional strains to NHS.”
Work is not being halted…
Angus Health and Social Care Partnership and Angus Council said they were disappointed Angus Care and Repair may end its arrangement and stressed there was no intention to end this type of service.
A statement said, from a legal and best practice perspective, it was necessary to review how it is delivered and by whom but funding was not being withdrawn.
Angus Care and Repair received annual funding from the partnership to provide services for older and disabled people, including major adaptations. A decision to tender these services was taken early in 2018 and this was communicated to partners.
The two bodies said they have specific legal duties to apply open and fair competition around procurement to ensure transparency, equal treatment, non-discrimination and proportionality, adding: “It is important services are reviewed to ensure best value, as more than
£1.3 million of public money was used to support adaptations through a range of contracts and funding arrangements in 2017-18.”
The partnership and the council said they had consulted with potential and current providers and service users on the changes and the tender process was ongoing.
They added: “Work continues to finalise the new adaptations service and funding arrangements in Angus and we have committed to fund the existing service until October 2019.
“We have done this to give some certainty to Angus Care and Repair board and staff. We will put measures in place to ensure services can continue to be provided for people that need them in the event Angus Care and Repair decide not to continue operating.
“We are encouraging them to participate fully in the tendering process. Angus Council’s economic development department is standing by to provide support to them and any other organisation that enters the bidding process.”