Vulnerable and older people at risk in their own homes

Over a third (34%) of the UK’s homecare providers responding to a national survey, have raised the alarm over risks to the dignity or safety of the care that local councils require them to undertake for older and disabled people.

The findings come in a report, “Care is not a Commodity”, published today, by the sector’s professional body, the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA).

In England, almost three quarters (73%) of homecare visits being commissioned by councils are reported as being for periods of 30 minutes or shorter, with one in ten (10%) visits commissioned for 15 minutes or shorter.

UKHCA is alarmed by these very short visit times that councils are commissioning for older and disabled people. We believe that this accounts significantly for reports of homecare services appearing to be rushed, or lacking sufficient dignity.

Cost-cutting at the expense of people’s care appears to be driving a culture where homecare is being commissioned, in some cases, like a commodity and the human consequences of decisions are not given proper weight.

Three-quarters (76%) of providers said that, over the last twelve months, the council(s) they worked with had become more interested in securing a low price than a quality service.

Bridget Warr, UKHCA’s Chief Executive, said: “The provision of community-based care at home is fundamentally important to over 640,000 people receiving homecare services across the UK – enabling them to benefit from an independent life in their own communities.

“With the vast majority of homecare services commissioned through local councils in England, Scotland and Wales or Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland, the way councils and trusts purchase homecare has a significant impact on the experience that people have of these services.

“Our report, “Care is not a Commodity”, exposes the risks and consequences that can result from under-funded and poorly commissioned social care. We need to consign visit times that risk the dignity and safety of elderly and vulnerable people to the past and ensure resources are used to the greatest benefit of the client.

“We are calling on central, devolved and local governments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to take urgent action to address the crisis in funding affecting people right now, and to bring forward a comprehensive solution to the longer term funding of social care – to ensure that we have high quality sustainable care for everyone who needs it – wherever they live – today and in years to come.

“UKHCA and our member organisations are committed to working with councils to improve commissioning practices for the benefit of service users. So, today we are also announcing a programme which will offer councils across the country the opportunity for commissioners of social care services to spend time accompanying care providers for a day – to get a better sense of the ways in which people actually experience the services councils are commissioning. We will be contacting councils over the coming weeks to invite them to participate in this programme”.

Mike Padgham, Chair of UKHCA, said: “As a care provider, you are often left wondering whether council commissioners give any consideration at all to the consequences for people’s dignity and safety of the decisions they take on short visit times.

“Providing care to people in their own home can make a real difference to the quality of their lives. But all too often councils treat commissioning of homecare services as a commodity – bought primarily on price – like paper clips. But care is not a commodity – it’s about real people’s lives. Councils need to get the focus back onto care, not just cutting costs.

“Homecare providers also want to be able to reward the fantastic job that their careworkers do providing care to people in all weathers, 365 days a year. Councils cutting costs and commissioning shorter visit times is hitting careworkers hard too”.