More money? More staff? What is solution to elderly care crisis?
PUBLISHED: 07:52 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 07:52 02 February 2018
Care companies have called for more cash to look after elderly people at home and ease the strain on the NHS.
They warned recruitment in the home care industry was “dire” and home care firms were not being paid enough money by Norfolk County Council.
Despite years of warnings about funding and recruitment problems in the care industry, the challenges in Norfolk have been brought into fresh focus by a report in this newspaper on Tuesday about 2,700 people in the county waiting for help from the council’s adult social services department.
They included Hickling couple Sally and Eric Goleby, who had been married for 48 years, but were forcibly separated for more than five months last year because a home carer could not be found for Mrs Goleby.
She was put in a care home and then asked to pay for the care home she had never wanted.
There are dozens of companies in Norfolk providing home carers and Angela Gifford, from Able Community Care in Trowse, urged the council to use more of them to reduce the backlog of people waiting for care.
Mrs Gifford said the company had provided care in Monte Carlo before, but as they are not on the county council’s list of approved providers, they get no work from the council.
Another Norfolk home care agency, which did not wish to be named, said they were “disgusted” by the Goleby’s story.
They said they had tried to get on the council’s list of approved providers before Christmas but were still waiting to hear back.
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said home care providers had to go through a “quality assessment process” before it would enter into any contracts.
The council is recruiting 50 social workers to reduce the list of those waiting for care. It has recruited more than half of them.
Director of adult social services James Bullion said: “Norfolk has got a plan for things to improve – our message is come and do that social work here because the model is positive.”
But Dennis Bacon, from Norfolk Independent Care which represents private care providers, warned more social workers would not solve the problem.
He said more carers also needed to be recruited so that when social workers refer people to home services or care homes the capacity was in place.
“If we planned for this properly some of the money spent on extra social workers should be going on building capacity in the care system,” he said.
He predicted pressures would only get worse as the number of people needing help was growing all the time in Norfolk.
“Whatever your politics, social care has been mismanaged,” Mr Bacon added. “Home care is in a disastrous state. Contracts are being handed back to the council.”
The council is the biggest single care provider in the county but the majority of care homes and all home care agencies are privately run.
They have faced rising costs from inflation and the national living wage.
Mr Bullion said the council had funded the private care sector’s increasing costs fairly.
But he said attracting young people into the industry was a challenge.
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Mr Bacon pointed out young workers could make more money an hour in Tesco than as a carer.
He said the care system needed to offer a career structure for young workers.
“It is highly concerning that a supermarket can offer better pay, conditions and career progression opportunities than are available in care,” he said.
Jo Ardrey, chair of the county’s homecare association, accused County Hall of not paying care agencies enough money for the work they wanted them to do.
“To keep staff you need to pay more but you are unable to on the amount the council currently gives for home care,” she said.
But the council said its rate of pay an hour to home care providers was one of the highest in the country.
A spokesman said only two home care providers had handed back contracts. One of those was a “strategic decision” rather than a financial one.
The council is also bringing in a new financial model which will see average hourly rates for home care providers increase to £18.12 an hour.
•An answer to NHS queues?
“When the NHS sneezes we catch a cold,” said the council’s adult social care boss James Bullion. “We get many more referrals.”
But care providers believe they can keep more patients out of hospital if they could intervene earlier by seeing them at home.
The NHS and care systems are meant to be doing that by working closer together through something called Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs).
Mr Bacon, who has worked on the Norfolk and Waveney STP, said: “Where people are queuing up for hospitals – that is the most expensive end of the system and not a good place for them. We need a major change in the way the system is financed.”
Rebekah Bedingfield, from care provider NR Care, said: “If central government really listened to home care providers, there could be a massive relief on the sector and we could get people home from hospital quicker. There is sadly little integration actually happening between health and social care.”