Council home care services 'seriously failing'

20 Jun 11
An Equality and Human Rights Commission probe has found serious failings in the standards of home care for older people, according to a report published today.

By Mark Smulian | 20 June 2011

An Equality and Human Rights Commission probe has found serious failings in the standards of home care for older people, according to a report published today.

The commission is carrying out a fullinvestigation of the service as more local authorities support older people in their homes rather than find care home places. It published its interim findings today and will issue its full report in November.

Researchers took evidence from 54% of local authorities, 250 care home providers and 503 individuals.

The commission said it had uncovered ‘many worrying cases’, including people left in bed for 17 hours or more between care visits, and visits that were so short that users had to choose between being washed or having a meal cooked.

Visits by carers could be as short as 15 minutes, and could also take place at inconvenient times, meaning that some people would be put to bed as early as 5pm.

High turnover among care staff meant ‘some people have a huge number of different carers performing intimate tasks such as washing and dressing’, the commission said. In one case, a woman recorded having 32 carers in two weeks.

This led to complaints about the upset caused to users by being washed and dressed by a large number of different people, and having to repeatedly disclose personal information every time a new care worker arrived.

The commission said it would ‘be exploring further the experiences of care workers themselves, together with the reasons for high staff turnover’.

There were also complaints to the commission on cases of neglect, where people were left in filthy nightwear and bedding after a homecare visit.

David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said councils worked tirelessly to respond to the needs of people receiving home care.

But he added: ‘Local authorities are facing a £6.5bn budget deficit this financial year because of government funding reductions.’

‘This, coupled with the long-term triple pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs, means the current social care system is nearing breaking point.’

Rogers urged the government to develop a reformed system ‘where Whitehall, councils, businesses, charities and communities can work effectively together’ to provide high-quality care.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘Let's not mince words about what the findings show - leaving someone in soiled beds or clothing for a long time or failing to ensure that an older person is able to eat or drink is serious neglect and should be treated as such.

‘Providing personal care for older people should not be about completing tasks in whatever is the quickest or cheapest way.’

She said the greatest threat to the human rights of older people receiving home care came from cuts to adult social care budgets, and noted: ‘It is very unclear whether tightening eligibility criteria to care will allow local authorities to continue to meet their human rights obligations.’


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