Home care service crisis looming

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A new report states that England’s home care system is close to crisis due to the exploitation of workers.

The leader of the review, former Care Minister, Paul Burstow, discovered that a blend of poor working practices and inadequate funding was placing people at risk.

Around 500000 disabled, elderly people rely on home care for everyday tasks, such as dressing and washing. Some of them pay for this service, but others require aid from councils. However, the report indicated that zero-hours contracts and the level of remuneration were harming the service.

The review was initiated by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) think tank and Mears, a home care provider, following the number of scandals at residential care homes.

It involved the analysis of existing data and obtaining details from those involved in this sector, and it reached the conclusion that it is ‘only a matter of time’ before a major home care scandal would erupt.

The review discovered that 60% of care workers held zero-hours contracts, whilst up to one third of staff were not reaching the minimum wage as they do not receive reimbursement for travel between patients.

These practices are contributing factors to the high staff turnover rate in this sector. Around 20% of staff leave their jobs annually. This is twice the national average figure.

The fact that there is no stability as regards staff means that those receiving care have to make do with short visits and high staff turnover. Some reports indicated that some of the patients have had up to 50 different carers in a single year.

According to Mr Burstow, the price of this poor service is borne by the most vulnerable and frail in the community and the worker they rely on, who are offered a raw deal.

The chief executive at LGIU, Jonathan Carr-West, said if home care is not already in a crisis, it soon will be. He said more people require care, there is not sufficient money to pay for it and there are not sufficient people who are willing to undertake the task.

The report states that care workers should be offered key-worker status and be paid the living wage, which is currently £9.15 within London and £7.85 outside London.

Norman Lamb, the care and support minister said it was unacceptable that staff are not paid a fair wage. He suggested that providers who do not pay the minimum wage would be ‘named and shamed’.

The UK Home Care Association’s Colin Angel said they were trying their best, but have been squeezed financially.

He said disabled, older people deserve the best service from a workforce which is committed, suitably trained and rewarded for the complex care that is required to be given at home.

Image Credit: Brian Bullock

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