Plan Care scandal: Failings could cost firm £300,000

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A CARE firm contracted by the council could face compensation charges in excess of £300,000 as a result of its failings.

Bucks County Council, which contracts out work to Plan Care for clients in Aylesbury Vale, has been forced to transfer many service users to rival firms following scores of complaints about the level of service it was providing, as revealed in The Bucks Herald over the past few weeks.

The council is paying for the switch but managing director of Plan Care, Jim Gunn, said his company will eventually have to reimburse the authority at a cost to the firm in excess of £300,000.

“We’ve made mistakes with this contract and we intend to do whatever it takes to make things right,” said Mr Gunn.

“It’s going to cost us a lot of money, but we are actively rectifying the problems we have encountered with the contract.

“The contract in Buckinghamshire is very valuable to us – it generates between three and six per cent of our income.

“Other care companies have been called in to take over some of our service user contracts, who will charge the council more than we would – and we’re having to pay the difference.

“So we have a very large incentive to bring the service up to scratch, as we are having to pay a compensation charge for the mistakes we have made.

“We are having to invest a lot of money into making changes too – we are having to advertise for more staff – which hasn’t been helped by the negative publicity.

“After all, who wants to work for a failing company?

“We have made a mess of this contract, and now we are putting it right.”

Mr Gunn claimed that 15 minute time slots allocated by the county council in which carers can tend to service users have not helped the situation, as little can be done in this time.

“But we went into this contract with our eyes open, and can blame no one but ourselves,” he said.

Another senior director at the firm, Julian Hutchings, was interviewed on Radio 4’s You and Yours show last week where financial records were revealed for the company.

In 2009, Jim Gunn was paid around £500,000 – although he claims this was an especially good year – while Mr Hutchings earns somewhere in the region of £100,000.

However Mr Gunn said their pay was dependent on how well the firm does, as while some years can see handsome bonuses awarded to members of staff, other years see them receive no bonuses at all.

In relation to the complaints, Buck County councillor responsible for adult social care, Patricia Birchley, claims the council is doing all it can to make improvements.

“We are making sure that everybody is receiving the standard of service they deserve,” she said.

“We are looking into all the possible causes of the problems with Plan Care – this includes 15 minute visits.

“There are just over 60 ‘priority one’ residents which require a higher level of care – for example those who need two carers at one time – and some of those have been moved across to other providers.

“We are having discussions with Plan Care and are working witht the company, while working with the Care Quality Commission to ensure the level of service which people require is provided.

“We are absolutely determined to ensure Buckinghamshire receives the best care possible.”