Councillors demand answers after charity loses key contract

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OPPOSITION councillors have criticised the handling of a £1.5m contract award after a carers service learned it was at risk of being axed – in the middle of National Carers Week.

Carers’ Centre, Hull, provides support to around 2,000 carers, among an estimated 23,000, who look after relatives or friends in the city.

But now Hull Council has awarded a three-year contract for a carers support service of £500,000 per year to City Health Care Partnership.

The decision was made by the council’s corporate director, Trish Dalby, but the Liberal Democrats have now called it in so it can be re-examined by councillors on July 2 – the day after the new contract was due to start.

Coun Dave McCobb said: “It is pretty staggering that the council has chosen Carers Week to announce they are taking funding away from the Carers’ Centre which provides fantastic support to hundreds of carers over the city.”

Lib Dem Group Leader Abigail Bell said: “I can’t see how the Labour administration think cutting funds to the Carers’ Centre during Carers Week sends out the right message to the thousands of carers in the city.

“The majority of carers are unpaid and contribute hugely to society by looking after their loved ones.

“We will be demanding answers about how and why this decision was made. At the very least the decision needs to be relooked at by members. The fact that the Carers’ Centre has a long history of delivering results in our community must count for something.”

Greg Harman, who is manager at the Carers’ Centre, said the 10-strong workforce was under redundancy notices. He said the charity would probably survive but its core service, supporting carers, would cease if funding was withdrawn.

Mr Harman said: “Our concern is about the continuity of support for carers in Hull and any transfer of the service because of the pace at which it is happening.

“We have been in communication with the officers of Hull Council explaining our concerns and communications have been pretty good, so we are optimistic that some sort of solution can emerge from this.”

The charity, which has been supporting carers in the city since 1999, has been celebrating National Carers Week by visiting various areas of the city to raise awareness in a hired bus, and today will be in Queen Victoria Square.

It operates several services, including a five-year outreach project funded by the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Programme.

The contract for providing a carers support service had been due to expire on March 30, but this was extended by three months until the end of the month to allow for delays which occurred in the making available of the tender documentation.

A statement from the Carers’ Centre added: “Whilst Carers’ Centre Hull welcomes and understands the need for competitive tendering we have great concerns that the interests of carers and their cared for remain paramount.

“The timing of this commissioning and procurement process and its impact is a concern to us, particularly with the need for the continuity of quality support for carers in Hull. We are also concerned that our projects funded by other agencies are able to continue unhindered by core funding issues.

“There are hundreds of carers as well as other agencies and individuals to contact, as well as the perceived need to transfer information to any new provider with the Data Protection issues that raises, so sufficient time needs to be afforded to undertake this effectively.”

City Health Care Partnership, which is based at Priory Park, is an independent, co-owned social enterprise providing NHS services to over 500,000 people in Hull and the East Riding, said they had no comment. No-one was available from the council to comment.