Aberdeen create Scotland’s first council-owned social work company

Aberdeen city councillors have agreed the funding to help set up Scotland’s first council-owned trading company to deliver a range of social work services for older people.

The unanimous decision by the Social Care and Wellbeing Committee – which is subject to a further decision on the spending proposal by Finance and Resources Committee members – paves the way for a detailed business case to be completed over the next year.

The Local Authority Trading Company would have a turnover of around £25 million and would deliver services at the council’s three care homes and two day centres for older people, a day centre and care home for adults with learning disabilities, integrated care-at-home services, and occupational therapy and rehabilitation services. The Social Care and Wellbeing learning and development team would also transfer to the company.

Committee convener Councillor Jim Kiddie said: “This is an exciting alternative to outsourcing services. What we are doing instead is setting up an arm’s-length company with control retained by the City Council, which can plough the resources it generates back into services.

“Those resources can be invested in new services, which will allow older people to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. The number of over-65s and over-75s will grow hugely over the next 20 years and the status quo is not sustainable. We have been bold and innovative and are developing a sustainable way of continuing to provide vital services for vulnerable people to meet the increasing demand.”

Value-for-money studies have shown that the company would save the city £3million over a five-year period. As a trading organisation, it would also be able to sell services to other bodies and generate funds for the City Council.

The Trading Company would be wholly owned by Aberdeen City Council, with which it would have a contract to ensure robust performance management.

A report to the committee from Social Care and Wellbeing director Fred McBride said: “The LATC provides an opportunity for the City Council to ensure that services are flexible and adaptable so that they remain sustainable for the future.”

The contract with the City Council would ensure:

    more choice and improved services for people who need them;
    excellent value for money and incentives to ensure service improvement;
    efficiency savings and opportunities to invest to meet growing demand;
    a chance for the workforce to have a direct stake in their own futures in an organisation which rewards good performance.

The LATC is in line with City Council policies contained in its new Five Year Business Plan, which seek to shift the balance of care towards community-based services and reshape services for older people to make sure increasing demand is met.

The principle of establishing an LATC and an outline business case were agreed by the Full Council in June. Social Care and Wellbeing Committee members have now agreed up to £500,000 can be spent to provide external expert support to develop the detailed business plan and guidance on complex tax, VAT, pensions and company structure issues.

Committee members also agreed unanimously that a monitoring group including elected members should be formed to oversee the development of the detailed business case over the next 12 months.