SOCIAL work bosses have been put in the hot seat over plans to transform day services for the elderly after axing centres in the Borders.

Kingsmeadows Day Centre in Peebles is one of many earmarked for closure in favour of a new programme to introduce 'local co-ordination teams', who will be tasked with directing clients to activities of their choice.

But the burning question was asked by Peebles community leaders last week, who pressed council chiefs on whether funding would be provided to organisations and voluntary groups who take on these additional clients.

After hearing of the plans to change the elderly services in Peebles, chairman of the Community Council Les Turnbull asked: “Are there any plans for your service to provide any funding whatsoever to any of these various groups that may be asked to take on more activities.”

Michael Curran, who is programme manager within social work, replied: “The investment that we are making is the local area co-ordinators and support workers to access what is already occurring in communities.”

Mr Curran said that the day centre in Peebles is down to three clients.

He added: “That gave us a reason to explore why people are not choosing to use day services despite a large number of people ticking the criteria to attend. A lot of it is about changing expectations and alternative offers.

“There is an opportunity to take direct payments and to meet people’s expectations in a completely different way with a more bespoke personalised arrangement.

“When you start to scratch the surface of a community you find there is lots happening and lots of activity, the challenge is knowing about it. So that’s when we decided [on] having a local area co-ordinator to show people alternatives.”

Mr Curran told the community council that during research it was discovered that more mobile members of the community already access activities, but for those who were isolated the support wasn’t there.

He added: “We looked at the concept of a link worker, somebody who would quite literally walk alongside them to try out activities. We can support people before they become socially isolated and before it becomes a crisis.”

But the move to shift away from buildings-based to a community-based approach raised concerns.

Mr Turnbull said: “When I look at some of these activities you have suggested they are all buildings based.”

Mr Curran replied: “There are lots of other buildings out there that people can get transported to and use, so it’s not that we don’t use buildings. We’re not expecting older people to tramp the streets of Peebles and not be in a building. We are focusing on that the care and support is right so they can access the activities they wish to.”

This was challenged by Peebles Community Trust chairman Lawrie Hayworth, who said: “You mentioned the Men’s Shed, they have to raise funds to have the space and pay for the heating. Cycling Without Age, they have to raise funds for the bicycles and get volunteers. There doesn’t seem to be any matching resource to these groups to pay for the cost of the upkeep of that building. That is definitely a concern.”

Mr Hayworth criticised efforts to market to individuals the opportunities available at the current day centre.

He told Mr Curran: “You indicated that there were three [people] attending the Kingsmeadows Day Centre, but I’ve had a member of the public tell me that, when she took her mother along, she was actively discouraged from going. I do challenge the statements that you make with the reality here in Peebles.”

Community councillor Scott Rae said the current process for the day centre was “ridiculous for what was a valuable service”.

“You’re saying that there was a £48-a-session charge for the day service. But what I was finding practically was a £250-a-week charge for the day’s service because you couldn’t attend on a daily basis and not be charged for the week. It’s an awful lot more expensive than just attending on a daily per session basis, so that would put people off.”

Mr Curran said the process of changing the day services is yet to formally start and social work are still engaging with families and users.