MORE than 600 vulnerable residents are expected to be able to choose for the first time which private company provides their personal care.

Elderly people and those with learning or physical disabilities in the west of the borough are served by Care UK on behalf of Harrow Council, and those in the east by Supporta, with a pool of eight other firms providing cover when needed.

But that could change if the authority joins five neighbouring boroughs to collectively negotiate new contracts.

A decision on whether to do so will be made this evening by the council's cabinet committee. If approved, the new system will be introduced from October.

Harrow, Brent, Hillingdon, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, and Ealing councils would together aim to drive down the price of carers while introducing the opportunity for residents to select which firm provides their care.

A report to committee says: "The framework provides a choice of carer for residents. This is a major achievement for borough collaboration in improving quality by delivering

a framework that insists on a minimum standard, partnership working across the public sector to deliver procurement efficiency and savings of £500,000 over 18 months."

Many of those receiving home care require help with chores, or readjustment to life at home following a hospital stay, as well as housing-related support.

Work tendered under the current agreement was won by Care UK and Supporta, and a third company called Gentlecare. All have been rated at least two-star by the Care Quality Commission.