New-look Highland care service ‘still failing clients’

Highland councillors claimed yesterday the revamped care-at-home service is still failing those in need.

Councillor Alasdair Rhind of Tain told a meeting of the housing and social work committee a disabled resident in his area waited for three weeks for homecare after her husband died.

He said: “It took social work three weeks to get a care package in that house.

“They certainly didn’t respond quickly.”

He added that people needing care were often not seen by the same carer each time, and sometimes would be seen by as many as five carers in the space of a week.

He said: “People find that very humiliating – it doesn’t give them continuity or help their self-esteem.”

Other councillors criticised the number of hours provided and bulky management structure of the service.

The service is being modernised, which sees a new staffing and management structure, as well as changes to employees’ rotas and shifts.

Nairn councillor Liz MacDonald said the social work department had been trying to get rotas in place since 2008. She said the new rotas would mean some staff faced a six-and-a-half-hour cut in their working hours, and a significant drop in earnings.

She added: “The service has a top-heavy management structure which inflates the cost of living for people using the service.”

Councillor Donald Cameron questioned if the new rota would mean an end to inefficient use of resources.

He said home carers in Lochaber told him they worked 18 hours of their 37-hour week, with the remaining hours outsourced at a cost of more than £1,000. The latest figures from the Accounts Commission Audit Scotland showed the council was ranked 31 out of 32 for the number of home-care hours provided to people aged 65 and over in 2009 to 2010.

Head of community care services Brian Robertson said the revamp would mean a new management structure and would provide guaranteed and predictable service delivery which would benefit more users.

He added: “We recognised that we had inefficiencies in the way we deployed staff and we are confident that we are already reducing them.”

He said the organisation was trying to achieve a balance between hours and location of care required and the number of hours staff wanted to work.

He said some staff had dropped hours on a voluntary basis.

He added: “We are not quite in the position that we want to be in. We will offer a more timely service when the terms are in place.”

Committee chairwoman Councillor Margaret Davidson praised the hard work done by the carers and the project team and added that a layer of management was currently being removed.