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Monday, 5 September 2011

Private Sector Homecare Providers Speak Out Over Safety Concerns

The UK Homecare Association (the professional body which represents private sector homecare companies) speaks out over ‘safety concerns’ today in their latest research (reported in Community Care Magazine).[1]  The Social Care Association weighs in behind them about the enforced recruitment of ‘unsuitable people’ as homecare workers.  The fears of UKHCA stand in stark contrast to confident declarations by Bristol’s own good doctor Cllr Rogers, head of health and social care in the City.[2]  Cllr Rogers plans a total privatisation of continuing homecare services in the City and promises this is ‘safe’.  In the face of safety concerns from private sector agencies, on record as unable to cope, Rogers claims his privatisation will ‘halve the cost but preserve the quality’ of homecare in Bristol. 

The UKHCA research covers 111 local authority and health trust areas. In more than half, private homecare agencies have been forced to make their care even cheaper. Cheap care, claims Cllr Rogers, is achieved by cutting ‘bureaucracy and red tape’. The businesses who actually deliver these cheap services do not agree. Their care on the cheap involves paying little more than the national minimum wage, not paying homecarers for their travel time between each service user, making workers put in very long hours and tolerating them taking on second jobs to make up their pay. The Chair of the UKHCA, Mike Padgham, reports on a situation ‘which isn’t ideal.’

Adult care funding and provision is at breaking point in the UK. In Bristol, the Council’s own Homecare Service currently provides a safety net for independent providers and have stepped up to the mark to deliver excellent care when local firms have gone bust in recent weeks and months. Independent providers are struggling to cope with new market pressures, shortages of qualified staff and high rates of staff turnover, as well as maintaining the standards expected in the provision of good quality care. The interests of homecare workers and homecare service users are intimately intertwined.

Cheapening care is a very risky business indeed. When an older or disabled person needs two homecare workers to lift them out of their wheelchair, to get them out of bed, to ensure they don't slip in the shower, to clean soiled linen - they are ending up with only one homecare worker from private care agencies.  This is a guarantee of inevitable accidents: hoists will not be used when they should be, older people will fall and break bones, homecare workers will suffer irreversable industrial injuries. This information cannot possibly qualify as the 'deliberate distortion' of 'improvements' to homecare in Bristol which Cllr Rogers has complained about. This admission comes from the private homecare companies who are fully aware that they are sending workers out to care in circumstances which are UNSAFE.

Bristol City Council meets in a full Council session tomorrow evening at 6pm. This is surely an important moment for the future of decent care provision in our City.

[2] see previous post for Roger's leaflet which contains all the quotes used here

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