Her­ald View

The Herald - - NEWS -

ACROSS the board both home and away, the char­ity sec­tor has faced no short­age of chal­lenges lately. The same ap­plies here in Scot­land to those or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing within so­cial care.

Based on 2016 Au­dit Scot­land fig­ures, it’s es­ti­mated that some £667 mil­lion would be needed by 2020 to de­liver cur­rent ser­vices. These fig­ures them­selves were based on fore­casts of only a 20 per cent cut in pub­lic spend­ing by that date. Al­most in­evitably this sets the scene for an en­vi­ron­ment in which char­i­ties are faced with bid­ding for gov­ern­ment con­tracts that are barely sus­tain­able. The same char­i­ties must also try to de­liver ser­vices that in­vari­ably fall short of the de­sired mark, while staff is paid less than they should be.

It’s with these chal­lenges in mind that two of Scot­land’s lead­ing dis­abil­ity char­i­ties, En­able and Sense Scot­land, have made the de­ci­sion to un­dergo a “merger” of sorts in an ef­fort to pro­tect and grow front­line so­cial care ser­vices.

In a move thought to be the first of its kind in the char­ity sec­tor in Scot­land, both are in ef­fect say­ing they will not longer com­pete against each other for fund­ing. This marks some­thing of a re­think in the way char­i­ties re­spond strate­gi­cally to the fi­nan­cial chal­lenges they face.

By form­ing a part­ner­ship with shared sup­port ser­vices, the re­duc­tion in costs over three years of at least £10m in du­pli­cated ef­forts on bid­ding and pro­cure­ment, IT and main­te­nance they ar­gue, will mean money freed up to in­vest in front­line ser­vices. The ben­e­fits from this are ob­vi­ous, en­abling both char­i­ties to reach even more dis­abled peo­ple through­out Scot­land. It also would help over­come what some in the sec­tor recog­nise as the fail­ure of cur­rent self-di­rected sup­port poli­cies, ef­fec­tively pro­vid­ing a bet­ter chance of giv­ing peo­ple con­trol, choice and bud­gets to com­mis­sion their own sup­port. For some time it’s been clear that this has not been hap­pen­ing in swathes of the coun­try.

In­evitably any such talk of restruc­tur­ing raises the spec­tre of re­dun­dan­cies but both En­able and Sense Scot­land have been at pains to stress that while some jobs will be af­fected, the pri­or­ity is in re­de­ploy­ment within the new struc­ture. Wages too, they say, will be more ef­fec­tively ad­dressed.

Some 15 per cent of Scot­land’s care work­force are re­ported to be af­fected by in-work poverty. Given this, its not sur­pris­ing that the sec­tor suf­fers from high staff turnover. This in­con­sis­tency in­evitably leaves the most vul­ner­a­ble be­ing cared for by poorly trained, con­stantly chang­ing staff.

Against this back­drop they warn lurks the ever present threat that so­cial care be­comes un­sus­tain­able to such an ex­tent that we are forced back to­wards in­sti­tu­tion­al­i­sa­tion of the el­derly, dis­abled and those with men­tal health prob­lems. To that ex­tent should such a proac­tive and in­no­va­tive re­sponse as is pro­posed act as a bul­wark against such moves, then it is un­doubt­edly some­thing to be wel­comed.

There will be some within the char­ity com­mu­nity fear­ful that such an ap­proach her­alds the rise of the “mega-char­ity” swal­low­ing up smaller bod­ies or crowd­ing them out of what for some years has be­come an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive arena in term of gov­ern­ment fund­ing. The flip side to this sce­nario though is that for that same length of time the pri­vate sec­tor has it­self made greater in­roads into so­cial care and that such a restruc­tur­ing by char­i­ties is the only way for them to sur­vive.

What ul­ti­mately mat­ters here is en­sur­ing that the best pos­si­ble care and sup­port ser­vices go to who need it most. In a joint state­ment En­able and Sense Scot­land, in­sist that by bring­ing the two char­i­ties to­gether they will “ac­cel­er­ate change and im­prove­ment for dis­abled peo­ple, and for the ded­i­cated staff who care for them.” That in­deed would be a wel­come re­sult.

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