Carers from MiHomecare were present and made statements to the Committee, following which questions were asked by Members of the Committee.
Ian Haddington, MiHomecare, and Heidi Wildman London Care were also present.
During discussion the following points were made –
· Carers stated that they worked in the caring profession as they found it rewarding, and had moved into the service often after caring for a relative or a friend
· Carers stated that they enjoyed caring for the elderly, however they expressed concern that they were not paid additional money for working at weekends or after 6p.m. and that there should be an increase in pay for carers
· In response to a question carers were broadly in favour of more guaranteed hours contracts, and that zero hours contracts did not give security of remuneration. If clients went into hospital then a carer lost pay and this was not considered to be fair to carers. This was due to funding being ceased from the LA as the care package is not required when a client goes into hospital
· MiHomecare stated that guaranteed contracts were offered to all carers, after completing their probationary period, but they had to commit to working 30 hours per week but this could often involve late night or weekend working, which many carers did not wish to commit to. Many carers wished to do 9-5 and this was not always possible with guaranteed hours contracts
· Discussion took place as to the hours of carers, and it was stated that some clients did not want to go to bed until 10.00p.m. and this led to a long day as carers would often have to start early in the morning. Most of the carers duties took place in the morning, and in the early evening, and there was a lot of downtime if clients wanted to be put to bed late at night. This led to carers working a long day, from early in the morning to late at night, however their pay did not reflect this
· Reference was also made to the fact that in some instances carers faced abuse, possible violence, or racist attitudes towards them by clients and that this should not be acceptable. The view was expressed that there should be a zero tolerance policy adopted to prevent this. It was stated that whilst appreciating that this should not be acceptable, if clients persisted it would be difficult for a Local Authority to withdraw care. It was noted that at present when there is a difficult client they are often placed with an alternative provider, which just passes the problem on
· Concern was also expressed by carers that there appeared to be long periods whereby concerns were expressed by carers about clients, and action being taken by Social Services. MiHomecare stated that they did report concerns and while action is taken quickly by Social Services quickly in many instances, because of pressures on the system, this was not always the case
· Carers informed the Committee that they felt that they were best placed to know the concerns/problems of clients. When problems were reported this led to frustration for carers in that action was not taken in some instances for a considerable period of time, and there appeared to be no timeframe for dealing with concerns expressed
· Carers also expressed the view that the travel time allocated for visits was not sufficient, and that payment for late working and weekend working should be increased. It was stated that the contracts agreed with the Local Authority did not provide for this, and there would be additional costs to the contract if this was agreed
· The view was expressed that carers could be given Trusted Assessor status, if the Local Authority agreed to this, and this would not only give carers an additional role that could increase guaranteed hours, but improve the service to clients
· In response to a question carers stated that they viewed caring as a career, and that there were career pathways that could be followed, however these could be limited
· Carers expressed the view that there were other measures that the Council could introduce to improve conditions for carers. Carers often had to visit areas, estates late at night and felt unsafe. Many carers were women and felt vulnerable. The provision of parking permits for carers would assist in them being able to take their cars, and be of limited cost to the Council. There may be other benefits that could be offered to carers, which in addition, may make their job not only more satisfactory, but make them feel more valuable e.g. reduced rates for gym membership etc.
· The Committee expressed their gratitude to the carers for their dedication and professionalism to their job. Members added that the concerns of carers had been noted and the Committee, within the financial constraints the Council is under, would be making recommendations that would hopefully address a number of the issues raised
· Carers also expressed concern that there is a lack of information provided when clients are discharged from hospital etc. and that there needed to be improvements made in this regard
· MiHomecare stated that minute by minute billing is a problem in terms of payment for carers. An alternative is to look at a paying on plan system, whereby providers are commissioned to provide a certain number of hours, and carers could be contracted to provide these. A geographical zoning system could also bring benefits, and increase capacity in the system, while at the same time improving the service to clients. Members were informed that alternative models would be looked at in a future meeting
· Reference was made to the payment of sick pay, and that clarification should be provided at a future date in relation to the provision of sick pay for carers. Some carers raised the issue of losing their clients hours if they were off sick. It was stated that clients’ needs had to be covered during a carers sickness absence so duties had to be reallocated
The Chair thanked carers for their attendance and the work that they did on behalf of the Council and clients, and also to MiHomecare for attending