An uncertain future for Thomson Court

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STAFF at Rothesay’s only local authority care home face an uncertain future after Argyll and Bute Council decided to invite bids from private companies interested in looking after the area’s older people.

Thomson Court at Townhead is likely to be closed within two years if, as the council anticipates, there is no interest from the private sector in taking over the authority’s existing care homes and employees.

A report drawn up for the council’s special committee on older people’s services (SCOPS) states that closure of Thomson Court – and the six other residential care homes run by the authority – is not an option at present until alternative facilities are available.

However, the report also says a pilot scheme to provide extra care housing at local sheltered housing complexes, along with the provision of an overnight home care team and relaunched Telecare services – both due to come into effect this month – should allow the position at Thomson Court, where ten full-time and seven part-time staff are employed, to be reviewed within two years as part of “a phased programme of closures for council care homes”.

According to a public consultation carried out as part of the review, older people “favoured being cared for at home as independently as possible for as long as possible”.

The report on the review, which was considered and accepted by SCOPS members last Thursday, also stated that while users were very satisfied with the services provided by the council, continuing to provide care home services in the same way as at present offered the poorest value for money and would be less affordable than withdrawing from direct provision or ‘externalising’ the existing service.

The council’s spokesperson for social services, Lib Dem councillor Andrew Nisbet, said Thursday’s decision to press ahead with inviting tenders from private firms was “a very positive step” towards the goal of providing better care for older people.

“Changing the way we care for them now means that as the population gets older and lives longer the options available will be closer to what people want – the option to remain in their own home or in more modern residential facilities,” Cllr Nisbet said.

One reader contacted The Buteman to express concern that staff at Thomson Court were not being kept fully informed about the latest developments, and had no information beyond the content of a press release issued last Thursday.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The Review of Older People’s Services has been ongoing for over two years and started with a consultation process which included all stakeholders; staff, carers, service users, providers and the local community.

“Following each meeting of the Older People’s Project Board staff have received a newsletter outlining the decisions of the Board and the next steps.

“In addition the Head of Service, Adult Care and the Service Manager, Adult Care have met staff affected by the decisions in each of the localities.

“Also there is a monthly information meeting for managers of older people’s services with the Service Manager, Adult Care and the Review of Older People’s Services is a standing item.”

We also asked about the future for the Thomson Court building’s other users, the Phoenix Centre, and were told no decision had yet been taken and that future use of the building would be “considered in the light of the outcome of the tendering process and the outcome of the review of learning disability services”.

Finally, we asked for more information on the pilot of extra care housing on the island, and were told: “There are three extra care housing pilots on Bute. Consultation has taken place with stakeholders including the current tenants.

“The housing provider, Bield Housing, has agreed to use a total of 30 flats, ten flats each in Foley Court, Rothesay Court and Ferfadd Court, for people who have higher level personal care needs.

“The allocated flats will be an alternative to residential care, allowing people to retain their own tenancy and to remain at home as independently as possible for as long as possible with appropriate care at home.

“Care will be taken to maintain the ethos of the sheltered housing complexes and the overall balance of dependency when allocating tenancies.”

* On a separate, but related, issue, we were told this week that Argyll and Bute Council’s home helps had been issued with redundancy notices. On asking the council about this, we received the following response:

“Separate to the review of older people’s services the council has offered voluntary redundancy to staff, including home care staff, as part of a budget savings exercise.

“No staff have at present been issued with redundancy notices and the final decision on requests for voluntary redundancies will be taken after the budget meeting on February 10.

“Assuming the voluntary redundancies are approved, alternative services will be commissioned with no loss of service delivery to clients.”