Pigeons coming home to roost as social care availability shrinks

Blog Post: 25 September 2017

In some parts of the country care home places are scarce. The problem, created by market pressures and not least unrealistic fees paid to providers by local authorities, can come at a price none would wish to pay.

Recently, Lincolnshire County Council were strongly criticised by the Ombudsman for allowing the woman to be placed in the dementia unit, even though she did not have the condition. Further more the local authority failed to revise her care and support plan when circumstances changed.

The woman, who has mobility problems, should have returned home with the help of a care package following a hip operation.

But to get the support needed, she was placed in a residential home some 15 miles away because the council’s contracted providers did not have capacity to care for her.

It resulted in her husband driving a 30 mile round trip every day to visit, when they both wanted her to return home.

Not surprisingly the Ombudsman found the council at fault for allowing the woman to be placed in the dementia unit, and for not revising her care and support plan when her circumstances changed.

Through its investigation into this complaint, the Ombudsman found that other people may have been similarly affected by the council’s contracting arrangements.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“This couple found themselves in the situation of a hospital operation leading to 10 months living apart, because of the lack of care provision available.

“The woman was placed for too long in an unsuitable care environment. She wanted to return home to be with her husband, but instead had no choice but to live with people whose care needs were very different to her own, causing her significant distress.

“Lincolnshire County Council should have reviewed her care and support plan once her circumstances had changed and moved her to a more suitable room sooner.

“Complaints are a learning opportunity. I encourage all councils to look carefully at this report, particularly if they are in the process of reviewing their commissioning models.”

Lincolnshire agreed contracts with a smaller number of preferred care providers which served all homecare services in their designated area.

I read it was an effort to stabilise the market.

Sadly the contracted provider in the woman’s area didn’t have enough capacity to provide the tailored care required.

The council has

agreed to pay the husband £750 and the wife £1,000 to reflect their distress. It will also refund the man’s travel expenses for the 10 months his wife was in care.

The council has also agreed to the Ombudsman’s recommendation to identify whether others were affected and provide the same remedy to those families if injustice is established.

It’s a sad case, but it raises a much-needed profile of what can happen when areas run short on the right kind of care. The Industry has run on double rooms for Couples, but it has been decided that that is not the right thing for people to share and this has led to a very limited supply for married couples.

It was just  five months ago we were listening to headlines warning that more than 900 carers were quitting the sector every day,

Data from Skills for Care revealed:

  • An estimated 338,520 adult social care workers left their roles in 2015-16. That is equivalent to 928 people leaving their job every day.
  • 60% of those leaving a job left working in the adult social care sector altogether
  • The average full-time frontline care worker earned £7.69 an hour, or £14,800 a year. The median average UK salary last year was around £27,600 for full time workers.

There was an estimated shortage of 84,320 care workers, meaning around one in every 20 care roles remained vacant.