Brunelcare hands back contract to council

Brunelcare is handing back its Support To Live at Home and Extra Care Housing contract it holds with North Somerset Council because it is no longer financially sustainable.

The two parties had been in discussions about the contract covering Clevedon and Portishead for a ‘number of months’. However, the charitable organisation said discussions resulted in the local authority searching for an alternative service provider.

A council document said Brunelcare had identified ‘financial losses and capacity issues’ as reasons for wanting to be released from the contract, with the volume of services having ‘steadily decreased’ over the past two years.

It added: ‘Brunelcare was struggling with recruitment and retention of staff and failing to accept new packages of care in the required timescales of the contract. There have been no concerns raised over quality.’ Services are rated Good by the regulator.

Kevin Fairman, Brunelcare chief executive, said: ‘As a charity, any surplus we make is reinvested back into the services we provide. However, when a contract is not financially viable, the rest of the charity is effectively subsidising that service. This is not a sustainable position and we have a responsibility to act in the interests of the long-term future of the charity, which has been providing care to older people for over 75 years.’

Formerly known as Bristol Age Care, the provider was established in 1941. Its 2018 accounts showed operating revenue remained static at £33m (2017: £33m), while its surplus dipped to £678,000, from £1.9m the year previous.

The provider has 13 registered services in the South West, including domiciliary care, care homes and Extra Care Housing. At the end of February, it had 112 North Somerset domiciliary care and 35 extra care clients.

It is working with the council to ensure a smooth transition to a new provider – Nobilis Care on 1 April. Employees will be TUPE transferred to Nobilis.

A council spokesperson said: ‘Following discussions with Brunelcare, they have asked to be released from their contract with us.

‘Our main priority at this time is ensuring continuity of care for our residents who use these services. We therefore aim to retain as many of Brunelcare’s staff as possible and initial staff meetings have been held.

‘Nationally it is a challenging time for the health and social care sector, with high staff turnover rates. We launched our Proud to Care bonus scheme last autumn to help our care providers with recruitment and retention of staff, by acknowledging the importance of care staff and valuing the vital work they do for our local communities here in North Somerset.

‘Going forwards, we hope this scheme will improve the situation and make a career in care a real, viable option for people.’

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Deven Pamben has more than 15 years’ experience as a journalist, working on newspapers, trade magazines and online publications. A Criminology graduate, Deven worked for Hertfordshire Constabulary before becoming a journalist. He began his journalism career at a local newspaper in Hertfordshire before moving into trade magazines in permanent roles or as a freelancer. Titles he has reported and edited on include Law Society Gazette, Harpers Wine and Spirit, and Health Club Management. Deven has also written travel features for the Sunday People, and spent two years working in Beijing for the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China.