Crackdown on care visit clock-watchers

Pensioners will be able to ask for services that suit them

By Daniel Martin, Whitehall Correspondent

UPDATED: 01:21, 10 July 2012

Ministers will pledge tough measures to end ‘clock-watching care’ visits of just 15 minutes by home helps which breach pensioners’ human rights.

Regulations, to be unveiled tomorrow, will aim to stop councils commissioning elderly care ‘by the minute’ from private care providers.

Instead, councils will be told to commission care on the basis of pensioners’ individual needs – giving them enough time to complete essential tasks such as washing, dressing and heating up food.

Changes afoot: The Care and Support White Paper will stop councils commissioning elderly care by the minute

But charities slammed the changes, to be announced in a long-awaited White Paper, as mere tinkering. They say they are meaningless when ministers are doing nothing to limit the charges pensioners have to pay for such services.

It emerged last week that any decisions on how care will be funded in future will be put off until 2014.

Last week a survey of care providers found that one in ten local authorities was imposing 15-minute time limits on home helps.

The survey by the UK Homecare Association said a third were limiting such visits to half an hour, because councils treated care services like ‘paper clips’. And the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said last year that such visits were so short that they breached the human rights of the elderly.

The care and support White Paper will rule out the crude ‘by the minute’ commissioning of domiciliary care, which leads to rushed care and puts staff in a position where they have to go through a tick-box of tasks instead of responding to what people need.

There will be a new legal duty for local authorities to improve quality by supporting the diversity and  sustainability of local services so the local market reflects what people in their area need.

Care Minister Paul Burstow said the reforms will end contracts that turn care givers into clock watchers

Ministers say that a diverse care market of small and large providers, including charities, will mean that people can choose the services that fit around them – not the other way round.

They hope that giving everyone the option to manage their own budget will mean people can choose the services that best meet their needs – that might mean nearly an hour on one day and nothing the next, instead of a prescriptive  15-minute-a-day service.

In addition, there will be measures to ensure carers are better trained to deliver a more compassionate service. There will be a new code of conduct and a recommended minimum straining standard for adult social care workers and healthcare support workers. And the number of care apprenticeships will double to 100,000 by 2017.

Care services minister Paul Burstow said: ‘We want to put an end to contracts that turn care  givers into clock watchers.

‘Contracting care by the minute means the focus is always on the clock, not the person, which is not how it should be.

‘The best councils are arranging care concentrates on the person and their needs – this ultimately delivers the best outcomes. Kindness, compassion, dignity and respect must dictate how care is delivered, not the clock.’

But Michelle Mitchell, from charity Age UK, said: ‘We absolutely share the vision of doing away with “by the minute” social care and the culture of ticking tasks off a list as a substitute for good quality care.

‘But both measures are often driven by a lack of funding and local authorities trying to squeeze the pips out of a drained social care budget. Good social care needs a sustainable funding source as a bedrock underneath it and good intentions must be backed by concrete funding proposals.’ 

2 Responses to Crackdown on care visit clock-watchers

  1. kenm says:

    It’s ok stopping councils contracting care by the minute, but the agencies will still want to cram as many clients as possible into the day.

    The whole system of contracting needs to change.
    At present councils give agencies contracts for the whole area meaning care workers are often driving 20 miles between clients. If each agency was awarded the contract for a small area this would increas efficiancy and reduce costs.

  2. Liz Rankine says:

    A former neighbour used to work for a “care” agency …. On one occasion they insisted that she had to get an elderly gent upstairs, get him undressed, toiletted and into bed in fifteen minutes … the gent concerned had advanced Alzheimer’s. She made several protests that he needed extra time … all to no avail. The last attempt reduced her to tears …she walked out in protest at not being able to give him the time he needed …

    On a more personal level, I looked after my dear late Dad for many years …as his condition deteriorated I had to fight to get him the time he needed… 15 minutes which at one point we were offered was pointless ….he needed an hour at least and that was on a good day!

    When will it sink into their thick heads that it is counter-productive trying to rush care, I wonder how long it will be before someone has an accident causing injury or worse because they are being rushed?

    I wonder what the “15 minute” councils will have to say when the law suits start flying their way?

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