Thursday, 26 June 2008

It's Not Just me Then

It's not just me! Sometimes it feels as if the whole 'system' is out to get me but it's not – it's out to get loads of people. I've been listening to BBC Radio 4's You and Yours. There was an article about the consequences of councils farming out home care to agencies across the land. It's going just as well as you'd expect. ¾ of all home care in England is now in the hands of private companies and 1/3 in Scotland. Across the UK approximately 750,000 disabled and elderly people use home care services. The programme concentrated on the situation in Scotland but I think it's fair to say that it reflected what is happening across the whole of our green and pleasant land.


We met elderly people for whom home care was the only human contact they had from day to day, but were victims of a practice called 'cramming` by which care workers cut the length of a call that has been allocated as half an hour to a mere 10 minutes so that more clients can be fitted in to a shift. The carers don't do this for their own benefit because they get paid a flat rate per hour but because the company demands it. The company gets paid by the local authority per client. One former agency office manager told how she was ordered to accept any client the council asked them to take on regardless of whether they had enough staff to handle them. 'Cramming' not only deprives the client of human contact, it also means that the care plan, carefully worked out by a slew of social workers, occupational therapists and manual handling experts goes out the window. A carer told how when one of her clients was sick she wanted to wait with her for a doctor but was told she had to move on.


Another practice is cutting a 'cut`. A cut is when a client is allocated, say, one hour that is divided in to two calls. A tea time call and a 'tuck in' or bedtime call, for example. The carer only does the first call, so the client is rushed through tea and changed in to night ware, and then left to fend for themselves. The poor person is therefore stuck in their pyjamas from four o' clock in the afternoon. Oh, and you can bet the agency charges for the full hour.


As many as a third of carers have left the business in recent years. They can earn more money stacking shelves in supermarkets. And the situation isn't helped by the fact that council care workers earn two or three pounds an hour more than agency staff. Which is, of course, why councils are so keen to hand over responsibility for home care to agencies in the first place.


YANUB left a comment to my last post. It reads -


I just don't understand the logic behind removing someone's well-trained carers, people who have not only grown through the years in their knowledge of how to do their specific job for you, but also have learned how to communicate with you and enjoy doing so, and replacing them with green help. And as foolish as that is, to do it to someone like you, who has increasingly exact needs, is just plain callous. No insult to your new staff, who are doing their best, but one doesn't start the open heart surgery and halfway through, send the lead surgeon home to be replaced by med students. Sometimes what counts is experience.

It's no wonder you are tired. There should be a campaign against this sort of thing, this depersonalization of human needs, this treating people as if they were interchangable.



Well said. One of the things that galled me most was the way in which the agencies won their contracts. An e-auction was held. Ebay in reverse, the lowest bidder wins. This may be an appropriate way of awarding tenders for office supplies or maybe catering contracts, but we are talking about personal care; giving people baths, cleaning up wet beds, helping people dress. Surely you don't want the cheapest option Mr or Ms Councilor? Or maybe you do, but I wonder how quickly you'll change your mind when you're in your 80`s and trying to live independently.