CARE providers claim clients have been left “anxious and distressed” over council bosses' decision to end their contracts.

TLC Scotland, based in Prestwick, is one of three care providers whose 'care at home' contracts with the North Ayrshire health and social care partnership (HSCP) will end when services are brought "in-house" on June 30.

North Ayrshire Council (NAC) says it hopes to convince carers from TLC Scotland, First Homecare and Delight Supported Living to come and work for them.

People who receive care at home can, however, remain with their existing provider by signing an agreement - but only if the firm is still able to provide a service in North Ayrshire.

The boss of TLC Homecare said she was confident most of her clients and staff would remain with the firm.

Joanne Brown, the company's managing director, said: "A lot of our service users have been left very uptight after receiving their letters from North Ayrshire Council. 

“Some have mental health problems and suffer from anxiety and we believe continuity of care is an important factor for them. They have built up good relationships with our carers over the years.

“One client, who is 96, received the letter and had to phone her son because she was so worried.

“If it was me, I wouldn’t be sending letters to vulnerable people. I would be speaking to them face-to-face and answering any questions they might have.”

TLC Scotland employs more than 100 carers in North and South Ayrshire, and Joanne said they were told last September that contracts would not be renewed.

"It was made clear that we were not to speak to our clients and staff about the move," she said.

“We have spoken to our staff members in North Ayrshire – and most of them have said they want to stay with us at TLC.

“We have now spoken to our clients and around 90 per cent of them want to stay with us too.

"This move is just changing something that is not broken.”

A spokesperson for First Homecare, which has its Ayrshire base in Irvine, added: “The poor way in which the council has communicated their plan means that they have scared staff and clients unnecessarily. 

"Now First Homecare is having to intervene again to calm the situation with staff and clients.

 “The people who will be most hurt by all this are those elderly, often vulnerable people in North Ayrshire Council communities.”

In their statement, First Homecare asked: “Has North Ayrshire Council spoken with their colleagues in neighbouring authorities who attempted the same exercise in previous years only to backpedal when the reality dawned?

“It resulted in a significant deficit of provider provision following decimation of a highly effective mixed market model.

“There was no consultation with existing providers and no exploration of alternative options and no opportunity to hear the voices of clients, staff or public before the decision was made behind closed doors.

 “First Homecare has a strong record of compliance and quality which easily matches and often exceeds local authority performance.

“The contracted providers have also achieved consistently high care inspectorate ratings at significantly lower cost than the council. These providers know how to deliver best value.”

The statement accused NAC of failing to engage with clients to make sure they know all their rights.

The spokesperson coninued: “By removing all competition and delivering services from only one provider, risk is increased and multiplied, particularly when the current viability problems of local authorities are apparent for all to see.

“North Ayrshire Council have had no meaningful engagement with clients to discuss their right to choose their provider, which is a fundamental right that people in Scotland have.

“Instead, hints have been made that North Ayrshire Council and its arrangements are the only alternative, and that existing contracted providers are ceasing to exist and or ceasing to deliver services. Blatantly not true.

“We will continue to do what we always seek to do – deliver excellent, safe care and support to vulnerable people.

“North Ayrshire Council has also failed to recognise the importance of trust and continuity in support. 

 “It's equally not surprising that staff are contacting line managers stating that if forced to work for North Ayrshire Council that they will leave the sector. Some staff have previous history of working for that authority.

“Therefore, North Ayrshire Council's ill-thought-out plan is likely to enhance an already deep recruitment crisis in the social care sector.”

In the second page of the letter to clients this week, North Ayrshire HSCP said supported people who did not wish their care to be transferred could take a direct payment and manage their own support through a provider.

The letter added: “Supported people or their representatives can choose a provider (which includes remaining with their current provider, should they wish to continue to offer this service) and the HSCP can work in partnership with them to provide the agreed level of care.”

A council spokesperson said: "The wellbeing of our service users and securing employment opportunities for the affected staff is our utmost priority.

"The changes to the way Care at Home services will be delivered from June has required financial investment by the IJB rather than delivering a saving, the value of this additional cost being recognised as an investment in high quality care.

"The decision reflects a move to a fairer approach to care provision across North Ayrshire and to allow the HSCP to provide greater long-term stability and quality of care provision for service users.”

Read the council's full statement by clicking here.