A probe by Bradford Council has revealed concerns about some ‘flying visits’ provided to vulnerable people who receive care at home.
Last summer a row broke out over claims that home carers were being given only 15 minutes to wash, cook and care for patients.
Councillor Amir Hussain, who is in charge of adult social care, “categorically denied” that was happening but, in October, the Labour-run Council started an inquiry to find out how often such short visits were happening.
Its initial findings have now revealed there are “inconsistencies” in the time allocated to the tasks to be completed for some patients by the private companies commissioned by the Council.
Each of those cases is now being examined in more detail, said Janice Simpson, the Council’s strategic director of adult and community services.
“We have been reviewing our information systems to determine the use of 15-minute units of domiciliary care, and our analysis is nearing completion,” she said.
“We can confirm that while 15-minute care visits do feature as an element of the overall care delivered to people, these visits are mainly for the following tasks: assistance with medication, preparation of a light snack (sandwich and hot drink) or well-being checks.
“We have identified some instances where the time allocated to the tasks to be completed appears to be inconsistent and we are looking into these to make sure the allotted time is appropriate to the tasks required.”
Ludmilla Tchernucha wants to keep her elderly mum in her own home for as long as possible, but to do that she has to top up the level of care provided by official services herself.
“If I wasn’t here, the care she receives would simply not be enough,” said Ludmilla, 55, who has been looking after her mum, Santa Tchernucha, for the past couple of years.
Ludmilla visits her mum’s home every day, in addition to the three daily visits her mother receives from carers.
Visits start in the morning to make sure Mrs Tchernucha is out of bed and gets washed, dressed, has breakfast and her medication. It’s usually just one person who stays 20 to 30 minutes.
Ludmilla arrives at lunchtime to cook, clean, shop and supervise medications.
Carers return any time between 4pm and 5.45pm. In about 20 minutes they warm up a meal, supervise medications and check other needs. Between 8.15pm and 9.45pm they come back to put Mrs Tchernucha to bed if she is still up and check she is comfortable. The stay is about 20 minutes.
Mrs Tchernucha, who is almost 80, has various problems such as heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and osteoporosis. She lives alone in her semi-detached home in the Barkerend Road area.
Care was organised by Bradford Council’s Adult Services department and the family contributes to the cost.
Ludmilla says the service is ‘adequate’.
“They are quite caring, with a lot of patience,” she said. 2A few times, no-one has turned up and I have to ring to ask why. It’s usually that they are overloaded.
“Mum is happy with them and overall it’s a positive experience.
“But a lot falls on me. Sometimes the carers are rushed. They would like to stay longer but they can’t. They just have to move on to the next client. One of my sisters helps but it is taking it's toll on me.”
Liberal Democrats group leader Councillor Jeanette Sunderland has demanded answers about several areas of concern about the district’s home care service and she has successfully called for a scrutiny investigation which will start in May.
She said: “Clearly the latest thing is they’re actually trying to fix it behind closed doors.”
Coun Sunderland said 12 key points about domiciliary care in the Bradford district needed looking at amidst concerns that homecare workers were being pushed below the minimum wage.
A national report by the union Unison found 57.8 per cent of homecare workers are not paid for their travel time and/or paid below the legal limit.
“My concern is that is what’s happening in Bradford and I want it formally scrutinised in this area,” Coun Sunderland said.
“The issue for me is about whether or not the action of Bradford Council is driving people below the minimum wage because people are having to pay for their own uniform and not being paid to drive between jobs – that’s what Unison is saying and I want to know if that’s happening in Bradford.
“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered around domiciliary care in Bradford.”
Coun Sunderland said she had received complaints from people being charged too much for care and had spoken to carers who were reduced to tears by the situation, but scared to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
“Lots of people are frightened,” she said. “People who work in the domiciliary care system are frightened. Frightened of losing business and frightened of going out of business.
“It’s down to the scrutiny to get it out in the open.”
Bradford East Liberal Democrats MP David Ward welcomed the decision to hold the scrutiny probe.
He said: “We have worked closely with care providers who are concerned about funding available to them and their difficulties in delivering services based on quality as opposed to cost.
“Unless we do something this will become a crisis. It might be we simply have to spend more and bite that bullet.”
Coun Hussain, said he was unaware of the scrutiny call, but added. “We have looked into this further and as we speak we are investigating in some depth.
“The work is in progress and it has come to light that there might be some instances involving the 15-minute care system.
“We are addressing the way care is delivered in Bradford.
“We are not necessarily saying there has been a problem but it is our duty to review the way we do things in Bradford, especially at times of financial pressure. We are always looking at ways to do things differently.”
Councillor Mike Gibbons, the Conservative chairman of the health and social care scrutiny committee, said he could not comment ahead of his committee’s inquiry.