Home care system in crisis, warns UNISON

Following a Care Quality Commission Report into homecare services in England which found that as many as a quarter are failing to meet quality and safety standards, UNISON is reiterating its warning that the care system is in crisis.

Most councils have outsourced homecare services and there has been a big increase in the number of different providers over the past year, leading to fragmentation and a churn of start-ups and business failures.

The union has long warned of the dangers of short visits, travel time, zero hours contracts and high staff turnover as damaging quality and continuity of care – many elderly people complain about a succession of different workers. And UNISON members complain that they can’t meet the complex needs of clients and build relationships.

Helga Pile, UNISON national officer for homecare, said:

“The current economic environment, makes it impossible to provide the dignified, respectful, high quality care that the elderly and vulnerable need and deserve.

“However, despite Government cuts, councils cannot wash their hands of their responsibilities. It is time for councils who commission or provide these services, to take responsibility for the welfare of those who receive them and for the workers who deliver them. They must do far, far better than they are now.

“Unscrupulous private financiers should not be allowed to cream millions out of an underfunded system, whilst providing seriously substandard care. In some cases this has had appalling consequences.

“Homecare workers are undervalued and poorly paid. Zero hours contracts are widespread and not paying workers for the time it takes to travel between care appointments, is nothing short of exploitation.

“Private companies who pay the minimum wage and giving scant attention to training, has a hugely damaging impact on recruitment and standards.”