Strathspey action group ‘disgusted’ at care services

A STRATHSPEY action group has fired a withering broadside at Highland Council’s social work department over its provision – or lack of it – for care at home services in the area.

They accuse the service and some councillors of failing to keep to their promises and letting down vulnerable members of the community yet, at the same time, claiming their are spending millions on upgrading the provision of care.

And in a letter to the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald the members of POST – Protect Our Services Today – catalogue a string of complaints and say they, as well as the general public are disgusted.

Their concerns are voiced hot on the heels of a pledge last week by Highland Council’s Housing and Social Work Committee chairman Councillor Margaret Davidson, regarding the authority’s commitment to the enhancement of care at home services across the region..

However, one of the POST signatories Mrs Mairi Brown, Kingussie, said yesterday that the elderly, their relatives and even some of the carers were at “their wits end” about how they are going to care for the more vulnerable members of society in the face of sweeping cash cuts.

Councillor Davidson insisted they are investing heavily in home care services in recognition that modernising care at home is a critical element in the enhancement of all community care services. She said it may take time for the benefits to be seen due to changes in the way services are provided across but gave an assurance of the council’s commitment to helping people stay in their own homes for as long as is practicable..

She said: “To date, the council has invested an additional £3 million in home care and is investing a further £1 million in 2010/11. This means that big improvements have been made, with 10,000 hours of home care being delivered every week to around 2,300 people. That involves an increase of 1,800 hours every week over the last 18 months, and increases of up to 15 per cent in evening and weekend provision – which is when people often need it most. There have also been enhancements in home carers’ rates of pay..

“We appreciate the value of home care to individuals and their families. We know that most people want to be supported to live healthily and happily in their own homes, rather than move into residential care. We also know that most people want that support to help enable them to do things for themselves, not to have everything done for them.” Councillor Davidson admitted there is still much work to be done, involving a further stage of improvements including increasing the capacity in the independent sector and streamlining and speeding up assessment processes. There is also a need to develop and put in place new and sustainable staffing and management structures within the authority..

“It is likely to take some time before further improvements are seen everywhere. There are some considerable challenges that will have to be addressed. It is important that we establish modernised home care services that meet complex needs and assist people to be supported to live at home. We are committed to delivering this across all Highland communities,” she said.

Her assurances, however, have cut no ice with POST who wrote the following scathing letter to the Strathy..

“Three weeks ago in this newspaper, our local councillors promised to meet with us. Since then we have heard nothing from them.

“We have, however, heard from some older people, their worried relatives, and their concerned home carers. They tell us that the Home Care Service no longer does ‘domestic work’, and that even those people who need personal care have had their care provision cut by 20 per cent across the board.

Publicly made promises to develop, then to improve, the Wade Centre; promises to meet with us at POST; promises to care for vulnerable older people . promises . promises . promises – all empty.

“Social Work is £3.9 million in debt and their convener, director and councillors are unable to keep their promises or even answer questions. And no one is resigning or even being held accountable. As tax payers – some of us with a lifetime of paying taxes – voters and worried members of the public, frankly we are disgusted.”.

Mrs Brown told the Strathy: “I am deeply concerned about the cut backs in care for the elderly, especially during the winter. They are the most vulnerable members of our community and they are being made to suffer like this.

“This morning I was speaking to a relative whose mother’s care has been cut completely, yet her medical condition has not changed. Relatives, the elderly themselves a nd even home carers have said to us they are at their wits end about how they are going to care adequately for the elderly.” Mrs Brown added: “The council has to spend money. It has to put it into front line services and not into the system. Highland Council have to look at their structure in great detail and stop having a manager for every little service and get more people on the front line.” And fellow POST member Rev Helen Cook, Kingussie, pointed out that a lot of elderly people living in what is effectively a rural environment did not have any immediate family support and were particularly dependent on home care.

Rev Cook added: “Highland Council say they are investing money, but where are these investments going? They all appear to be going into new posts, not being used for care in this area.”