The community of Tiree is to look into making a bid to run the old people’s home and home care services on the island.
That was the vote of a packed meeting of islanders last week after fears that the Council could close the facility gained ground last week. A number of the Home staff and home carers were in An Talla, but they had been recommended by the Council not to become too involved in case rival bidders could claim that the local bid was getting an unfair advantage.
Dr John Holliday, the island’s GP, told over one hundred islanders who attended the meeting, that he had now been reassured that Argyll and Bute Council was not about to close the Tiree Home.
He told An Tirisdeach after the meeting, “At a time when money is so tight, we should give Argyll and Bute Council great credit for doing their best to keep the Tiree Home open.”
However, the Council has decided to go ahead and “externalise” the service – in other words, ask private companies to take over both the Home and the home carer service.
Fears have been expressed that this would lead to a worse deal for islanders who need care. It costs the Council £1,061 to keep a resident in the Tiree Home for a week – compared to £550 in a mainland nursing home. Already, eight companies had registered an interest with the Council to take over the running of the Home, and even more to run the home care service. A 15% cut in the Council budget over the next three years is going to make life tough. Added to this, the 40 year old building at Tigh a Rudha, while still structurally sound, was not worth extensively redeveloping in the way that the Care Commission is demanding. The Home also provides 24 people with jobs and is worth £750,000 a year to the local economy – 95% of which stays on the island. Fears have been expressed that a private company would drive down carers’ wages and take a substantial profit ‘offshore’.
The island has been encouraged instead to look into setting up a social enterprise, not-for-profit company, to run the Home and the home care service. The meeting overwhelmingly gave its backing for the Tiree Trust to look into creating one. The department store John Lewis, and Atlantis Leisure in Oban are good examples of social enterprise companies that have succeeded. The Assynt Centre in Lochinver was closed as a residential Home by Highland Council three years ago. Last year it was re-opened by Community Care Assynt, a community interest company, and is running extremely successfully.
Scottish Power Renewables, who are looking into building a giant wind farm off the island, have offered £4,500 to kick start the process. Despite a few reservations, the meeting agreed to accept this money. Dr Celine O’Neill, Coll’s GP, who joined the meeting by video link, gave her support to the meeting. The Home had been a valuable resource in the past for Coll residents too.
Dr Holliday told An Tirisdeach,
“I think this gives us a great opportunity to look at how we do things at the moment. The Home has given great service for forty years, but it was built at a time when most people accepted, indeed wanted, that they would have to spend the last years of their life in the Eventide Home. At the moment we spend less than 5% of the Tiree care budget on care in people’s houses. More people want to stay at home for as long as possible when they become less able, and we want a modern care service that does what people want.
The modern style has been described as ’hub and spoke’ – a small ‘hub’ for people who need the most care, supporting a ‘wheel’ of people at home. It’s cheaper and it’s what people increasingly want. “Our ten year plan is to build a new progressive care centre which is designed for the modern world.
“ I don’t underestimate the challenges – we haven’t got much time, it’s a lot of money and a big responsibility. Setting and collecting charges from our fellow islanders will be more challenging for a local company. However a Tiree community company has just delivered a community turbine costing over £1 million – and jumped a million hurdles to do so. It can be done!”
Fiona MacKinnon, Kirkapol, offered TACIS (the Tiree and Coll Information Service) as the best group to do this work. The meeting, however, voted to use the Trust instead – the feeling was that the Trust had more staff, more involvement from the community, and, crucially, access to funding from the Ruaig turbine. Everyone in An Talla that night was invited to take part in the working group to look at a new community company and eventually build a new progressive care centre.
The following have put their names forward – Kate MacCallum, Mairi MacLean, Pat Campbell, Fiona MacKinnon, Dr John Holliday, Clare Jones, Iain and Anne MacKinnon, Neil Munn, Trudy MacKenzie, Angus MacKinnon, Jackie Jones, Margaret Proud, Lisa and Tim Weeks, Ruaig, Josie Brown, Christine MacDonald, Mary MacLean, John Bottomley, Catriona Cowling, Iain Tainsh, and Fiona Munn. There is plenty more space for those who want to help. Please let Lynne know at the Trust (220074).
Dr Holliday warned that the group would be meeting almost every week until May and that the progressive care centre project could last for ten years. As such, it is not for the faint hearted! Kate MacCallum, leader of the district nursing team and a director of the Tiree Trust, said,
“The turnout demonstrated the commitment of the island to caring for the more vulnerable on Tiree and Coll. We need to move forward to develop a service which truly meets the needs of the community.”
The meeting also backed the plan to bring any future tender for the Home back to another public meeting in the spring.