Unison – Highland Council home care staffing ‘a shambles’

Union leaders have urged Highland Council chiefs to meet them urgently to discuss what they describe as the “shambles” in the region’s home-care staffing.

Unison, the largest union within the public sector, has made the plea after gauging feedback from staff in a series of meetings across the Highlands.

It said yesterday that colleagues had highlighted concerns, including “lack of contracts, working 12 days in 14, a lack of communication, changes to ways of working without consultation and private-sector involvement.”

Unison spokeswoman Sylvia Dalimore said: “Home carers are in the dark about what is happening. They do not feel secure in their jobs since Highland Council has purchased 117,000 hours of private-sector care.

“Highland Council appears to be taking on only critically-ill clients in some areas and are cutting care wherever possible, leaving home carers very worried for their clients and their jobs. Home carers provide a vital service in the community.”

Unison accused the council of having a “lack of urgency” to address the issues, and claimed the council had cancelled meetings “at late notice, without explanation” and that the authority was reluctant to agree other dates.

The council’s social work chairwoman, Harriet Dempster, insisted yesterday that the authority valued its care-at-home workforce and had, in the past year, invested significantly to improve terms and conditions of staff.

“In addition, there has been extra investment in the independent sector to provide more hours of care at home,” she said.

“Delivering a service to meet the changing needs of our frail elderly means that the care-at-home service has to modernise. This is complex and rotas have needed to change to enable older people to be supported at evenings and weekend.”

Ms Dempster said that the changes were “working well in some areas”, while elsewhere her department was “still working things through to ensure the end result is the very best it can be for our older people”.

She added: “This is taking time and we appreciate there will be some concerns about this. When contacted last week by the union, I responded immediately to offer a meeting, which will take place next week.”