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Short 15-minute home care visits sometimes appropriate – LGA

Short 15-minute social care visits can be appropriate in some circumstances, such as when carers are administering medication, if they form part of a wider care plan, the LGA has said – despite a scathing report calling the practice “heart-breaking and distressing”.

The report, published today by Unison, blamed “eye-watering cuts” for the fact that three-quarters of local authorities in England are still limiting their homecare visits for elderly, ill and disabled residents to 15 minutes a day – despite NICE guidance saying all visits should last at least half an hour.

The union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said the rushed visits “should have no place in a modern, caring society”, especially since home care workers are often the only face some people see all day.

“They are a lifeline – only they can call for help and ensure that the housebound people they care for are fed, washed and well,” he said.

Agreeing that short visits are “sadly just one of the many symptoms” of a pressured social care system, the LGA argued that short visits can often be appropriate if residents are included in a wider comprehensive care plan, involving longer one-to-one visits.

But the LGA and Unison agreed on all other points, with both bodies arguing that the government’s new 2% social care precept will not be enough to meet the challenges the sector faces.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community wellbeing spokesperson, said: “It would be wrong to think this will be enough to solve the full range of pressures facing adult social care funding, especially with the National Living Wage to add further costs to the system from April.

“No-one wants to have to choose between washing someone or feeding them. Councils will continue to do all they can to maintain the services that older people rely on, but with no immediate extra cash available from the improved Better Care Fund next year, we are concerned that the most vulnerable members of communities will be at risk of losing the essential and dignified care that helps them to live independently.”

Unison’s arguments were similar, with Prentis saying the sector’s crisis is so great that “any extra cash will barely touch the sides” – especially in deprived areas, where the need for home care visits is greater.

The union’s report was based on an online survey of 1,1000 home care workers and data obtained from Freedom of Information requests to the 152 councils that commission social care visits in England.

It found that three-quarters of home care workers felt they didn’t have enough time to provide dignified care for the elderly people they visited, with another 61% saying 15-minute visits meant they often had to rush the care of people aged over 90 or those with dementia or mobility issues.

Survey findings also revealed more than half of home care workers have been asked to provide personal care in 15 minutes or less to someone they have never met before.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said nearly two years ago that these short visits are “completely unacceptable” – a point which a Department of Health spokeswoman echoed today, calling 15-minute sessions “not fair on older people or the staff who care for them”.

She added: “These responses largely pre-date the NICE guidelines on home care that were published for the first time last year, so councils now have clear standards to follow and our tough inspection process is clamping down on poor care.

“We are giving councils access to up to £3.5bn extra a year by the end of Parliament and this can only be spent on providing people with the high quality care they need.”


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