York home care investigation appeal

ELDERLY campaigners have demanded an urgent investigation into alleged failures in York’s home-care services.

York Older People’s Assembly (YOPA) has called on City of York Council chief executive Bill McCarthy to set up an independent inquiry into shortcomings unearthed by the BBC’s Panorama programme.

As reported in The Press last week, an undercover BBC reporter was allowed to work 14 shifts in York for care provider Carewatch, before being cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau. The programme also alleged the reporter was not properly trained before being sent to work with vulnerable clients.

The council has since placed Carewatch under “special measures” and ordered it to draw up a “comprehensive and rigorous” improvement plan.

Don Parlabean, chairman of YOPA, said the findings would have “seriously alarmed” anyone who received care, or who may one day, and called for a full investigation.

He said: “It beggars belief that it took an undercover reporter to expose these incidents. When the council lets a contract to an independent provider it must surely have in place systems to ensure that the quality of the service is delivered as specified.

“The situation demands an immediate independent inquiry into the failings highlighted. Nothing less will satisfy older people in York that they will not suffer in future from such shoddy services which they pay for.”

Meanwhile, Yorkshire Green Party candidate Martin Hemingway hit out at what he called an “anything for profit” mentality in home care.

Dr Hemingway, who will stand in Yorkshire and the Humber in June’s European Parliament elections, said: “A company cannot bid £9.95 an hour and offer the level of service that councils should deliver. Massive corners will be cut and many customers will suffer neglect, discomfort and loss of dignity.

“This ‘anything for a profit’ approach is no different from the behaviour of the banks and those responsible should be named and shamed.”

Bill Hodson, director of housing and adult social services at the council, said: “The safety and well-being of the citizens of York is the council’s prime concern and we take any concerns raised about services very seriously. The council has a number of systems in place to ensure that providers are working in accordance with their contract.”

He said the council had spoken directly to most of Carewatch’s customers since the issues were raised by the BBC. He said most were happy with their care, but some had experienced problems with late or rushed calls, as featured in the programme.

He added: “Following the letter to all Carewatch customers, the council has been running a dedicated help-line. No concerns have yet been raised by customers or their families, but we will continue to monitor Carewatch very closely until we are convinced that the improvements required have been embedded.