Wrexham care worker calls for ban on online auctions selling care for the elderly

ONLINE auctions where contracts to care for vulnerable people are given to the lowest bidder should be banned so they can never happen in Wrexham and Flintshire.

That is the strong message from social care supremo Mario Kreft, from Wrexham, who believes that reverse e-auctions are “immoral”.

The controversial practice was exposed in a hard-hitting investigation by the BBC’s current affairs programme, Panorama.

Mr Kreft, chief executive of Care Forum Wales, was horrified by a number of the revelations contained in the programme – not least the approach of local authorities in commissioning services.

He says it has rekindled the debate about the quality of domiciliary care and, in particular, the squeeze on funding to provide care for people in their own homes.

Reverse e-auctions are used by local authorities to help drive down costs.

They force care providers to go online to bid the lowest hourly rate for care – with the contract often going to the lowest bidder.

In the Scottish example shown by Panorama, the bids went down by 5p at a time and the successful contractor offered an hourly rate of £9.95.

According to Mr Kreft, who is the proprietor of the award-winning care organisation Pendine Park, online auctions lead to lower wages for staff and compromises the standards of care.

He said: “Anyone who watched the recent Panorama programme will have been appalled by much of what they uncovered.

“The jaw-dropping reverse auction arrangement set by one of the Scottish local authorities featured in the programme is quite simply immoral.

“It results in human beings being traded like commodities at an auction – it’s tantamount to saying that people have a cost but no value.”

He added: “While we need good social care workers and social care providers, the people responsible for commissioning services must not be allowed to cut the cost of purchasing social care without regard to its quality.

“This does not only apply to domiciliary care but all social care services provided to vulnerable people. Neither the public nor independent providers should be complacent for one moment.

“We have been contacted by many of our domiciliary care members who are concerned by the negative image portrayed by the programme.

“Care Forum Wales is currently working with the Welsh Assembly Government and other stakeholders in developing new commissioning guidance that will replace the existing Promoting Partnerships in Care as part of the Fulfilled Lives, Supportive Communities social care policy development.”