Elderly Home Care ‘Needs Change’

{mosimage}Inspectors have criticised the standard of home care for hundreds of thousands of elderly people in England. The Commission for Social Care Inspection report said many people found their carers too rushed and there was little time to build trust. Commission chair Dame Denise Platt said the report Time to Care? painted a “mixed picture” of the quality of care. The report concluded that the services were vital for thousands, but councils should rethink them and offer people more choice. Dame Denise said: “It is critical that those who commission and provide home care services listen to what people say they want and value. Failure to listen to what people really need, and respond to this, results in missed opportunities to promote independence and to help people live full and rewarding lives. At worst, it can also result in services that do not respect people’s rights and dignity.”

She said as the numbers of older people grew, councils must reshape services to give people living at home “more personalised care”.

The CSCI also found that councils concentrated services on people with the most severe needs, meaning others who would benefit missed out. The report said the number of people receiving council-funded home care fell from more than 500,000 homes in 1992 to 354,500 in 2005, despite a rise in the older population.

Inspectors also found the home care services were often beset with serious problems in recruiting, training and retaining quality staff. Younger people were given little incentive to work in the care industry, with many finding better-paid jobs in their local supermarkets, the report said.

CSCI’s Chief Inspector Paul Snell said since it started regulating the sector three years ago, home care services had improved, but “fundamental change” was still needed: “What we found in this report is that when we talk to older people about their experiences almost universally they are pleased with the care provided by their direct carer, but that the systems for delivering the care don’t always match up to the quality people want to see.”

He said carers could be rushed and could be numerous, citing one case where a woman had had five different carers in 10 days. “There are problems of recruiting, retaining and training good quality staff,” he said.

Age Concern’s director general, Gordon Lishman, said care at home was often what older people wanted, but local authorities must “provide the levels of services needed”.

“At a time when the government is emphasising care services that enable older people to stay in their own homes, too many frail and vulnerable older people are being let down by under-pressure staff and over-stretched councils who are not providing the care they need,” he said.

He added that less intensive and preventative services that helped keep older people healthy and independent for longer were being withdrawn.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “There have been many changes for the better but there remain issues of poor quality and reliability that we have to get right in the delivery of home care services. Direct Payments, Individual Budgets and the In Control work give people more control over the services that they need to manage their lives.

“We will continue to work closely with the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), local councils and health trusts to bring about the improvements in services that people need and deserve.”