Highland adult care service in crisis, claims councillor

Latest figures reveal that Highland Council’s care service is in crisis, according to SNP opposition councillors.

The ratings for the service, which will be revealed at a full council meeting today, show the authority is among the worst in the country for providing care for adults.

Statutory performance indicators from the Accounts Commission Audit Scotland show it was ranked 31 out of 32 – the second worst council – for the number of home care hours it dedicated for people aged 65 and over in 2009 to 2010.

It has been in the bottom three councils in this category over the past three years – with a ranking of 30 the year before and 31 from 2007 to 2008.

The authority dropped 12 places from last year for the number of clients getting personal care, and was listed 24th out of 32.

The council also dropped seven places and is ranked 29 for the percentage of people being seen on weekends and it fell three places compared with last year to 27 for people being seen in the evening and overnight.

The figures were blasted by the council’s SNP housing and social work spokesman, councillor Dave Fallows, who said an extra £1million had been ploughed into the care service every year since 2007.

He said: “The Liberal Democrat-led administration has wasted the substantial year-on-year additional funds allocated to care homes, presiding over a failing block purchase plan for home care and disastrous dithering and delay over the introduction of new rotas for our in-house staff, resulting in loyal staff leaving in droves.

“These appalling figures indicate a service in crisis at the very time that previous decisions to build new care homes have been reversed and there are virtually no care home vacancies either.”

Overall, the council ranked in the bottom 25% for 11 indicators and was in the top 25% for nine.

For 2009 to 2010, it was ranked the number one council for the percentage of its council dwellings which have been brought up to a tolerable standard and it was also given the top spot the year before.

For the same period, Highland Council was also top of the board for its percentage of council houses that are healthy, safe and secure – it ranked 17 in this category the year before.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, chairwoman of the council’s housing and social work committee, admitted that, despite ploughing £5million into the service over the past four years, it was still “not where it needs to be”.

And the Aird and Loch Ness councillor would like to see the rating go up next year.

She said: “These figures are a year old and we have made improvements which have seen an extra 1,000 hours of home care and we are seeing more people on weekends and evenings to help people stay in their own homes.

“At the same time, we have seen a 7% to 8% rise in people over the age of 65 needing the service. We are enthusiastically working in the right direction and I would like to see us further up the league.”