Care service overhaul set for relaunch

A CONTROVERSIAL overhaul of the way disabled people are cared for in Edinburgh is to be relaunched, with the council vowing to put the harshest critics of the care and support tender at the centre of designing the new system.

The local authority was forced to abandon the contentious re-tendering process for the care of hundreds of disabled people earlier this year after a legal challenge.

It would have seen hundreds of people lose their carer and have them replaced with an employee of a larger agency.

It sparked fear among the Capital’s disabled community, with disabled charities and the people themselves furious that they hadn’t been included in the decision-making.

Now, following a damning report into the scheme, the head of health and social care has promised to fully consult and take advice from the very people who felt “isolated and ignored” before.

As part of organising the restructure, the council has vowed to “focus on listening and responding to service users” and allow them to have a “genuine influence on how services are provided and who provides them”.

The consultation will run until mid-January, at which point a decision will be made on which organisations to give the responsibility of caring to.

Part of the original objective was to radically reduce the number of organisations involved, as well as saving hundreds of thousands of pounds, and it is understood that will still have to be done.

David Griffiths, chief executive of ECAS, the city-based disabled support group, said: “I really think the council is genuine in this process and that the views will be taken on board.

“It’s what people wanted and I have every faith in this new process.”

Sources said the reception to any new approach may be warmer this time round. Now that the UK government, the council and NHS are talking about cutbacks, it is expected the disabled community may be more accepting to change.

Cllr Lesley Hinds, Labour’s health spokeswoman in Edinburgh, said: “This report is a powerful indictment of the shameful way this council has treated a group of vulnerable people and their carers.

“The challenge now is to put right some of the damage and hurt caused.”

Peter Gabbitas, director of health and social care at the council, said: “A Checkpoint Group consisting of service users and care organisations in both the voluntary and private sector, equalities and advocacy groups will provide advice on our engagement.

“We have to take on board what individuals and organisations are telling us on issues such as having choice and control in social care services.”