HOME care workers sometimes lack basic skills like how to make a pot of tea or boil an egg, the shock findings of an independent report reveal.

Carers brought in to help elderly people in their own homes can struggle with "basic duties such as housekeeping and basic culinary skills", according to the watchdog Healthwatch Bradford and District.

The hard-hitting report also raises concerns about the dignity of elderly people being compromised and medication not being given properly.

And it sets out a nine-point improvement plan for Bradford Council and the dozens of private companies commissioned to provide care on behalf of the authority.

Andrew Jones, Heathwatch manager, said: "Based on what people told Healthwatch, we know that home care services are vital to those who receive them.

"While many people receive a good standard of care from private providers, others experience real problems particularly around poor communication, a lack of consistency of carer, a lack of skills amongst some carers, and delayed or missed visits.


"The quality of the care people receive in their own home can make a huge impact on their wellbeing, and often it’s small, personal things that make the biggest difference to people: making a cup of tea the way someone likes it; respecting their privacy when carrying out personal care; being able to ‘slow down and smile’ rather than rushing on to the next visit."

Mr Jones said as well as sending the report to the Council, Healthwatch had sent it to the private care firms.

He said he hoped they would also act on the recommendations, "particularly relating to training and skills, timeliness, the administration and recording of medication, and protecting the dignity and privacy of clients".

A Council spokesman said: "The Council fully accepts the recommendations outlined in the Healthwatch report and will work with the sector and service users to ensure that these recommendations are implemented."

The report was drawn up after 240 people responded to a survey asking what they thought of home care arranged through Bradford Council.

Overall, feedback was positive. Many people said they valued the help, as it enabled them to be as independent as possible, and staff were good on the whole.

But one of the main areas of concern which emerged was a "lack of skills and training among some care staff", the report says.

One woman in her 80s said her carers were unable to boil an egg or make the bed, while another person said they needed to be taught "home care common sense".

Another concern was about staff recording that they had completed tasks when they hadn't - a particular worry when it came to medication.

Other people complained about a lack of dignity, a constant stream of new faces, or inappropriate visit times like being put to bed before 7pm.

Councillor Ralph Berry, portfolio holder for social care at the Labour-led Council, said: "It's very important we work very closely with Healthwatch to make sure we develop the best possible practices. There's a lot of thought and attention gone into this report."

He said the social care sector as a whole was facing huge challenges and there was "widespread concern about the quality of social care".

He said: "We are making sure these things are followed up. We are also meeting people in the business as well - it has got to be done across the whole sector."

Cllr Berry said it was a hugely important issue, as in the end it came down to "how much we value people" - both those being cared for and the staff involved.

Councillor Jackie Whiteley, Conservative group spokesman for adult services, said if home carers were paid a higher wage, they would attract better qualified staff.

She said: "We need to make sure we have got enough of the right people, of the right calibre, looking after people.

"Being able to cook is just obvious. Everybody should be able to boil an egg, it's just ridiculous."

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, Liberal Democrat group leader, also said money was at the root of the problem.

She said: "We are in a race to the bottom. We are paying rates that means a number of carers are getting less than minimum wage and people are finding it more and more difficult to recruit."

The Telegraph & Argus is championing the rights of elderly and vulnerable people to be treated with the dignity they deserve in all aspects of life through our long-standing With Respect campaign.

Some of the critical comments given by elderly people or their families through the survey:

"Food prepared and cooked is sometimes inedible because of a lack of training in basic cookery, even down to boiling an egg. Not everyone wants or can have prepared microwave meals. I asked one of them to make me a sandwich with a processed cheese slice, tomato and cress...she asked me how long do I boil the cress for? Quite often they put the milk in the teapot." - a woman in her 80s.

"Bedtime routine is too early and sometimes they arrive before 7pm so mum refuses to go to bed, which has an impact on her health." - a daughter, talking about the care given to her elderly mother

"Occasionally they do not wish to wash my hair although it's on my remit for every other day. The reason given is that they have an impossible number of clients to care for." - an elderly and disabled woman

"On February 14, Valentine's Day, we had some special meals from Marks & Spencer but we were waiting for the care worker to come in before putting them in the oven to warm them up. We were expecting them around 5pm, they came at 8.30pm. We waited all that time to have the meal. It spoilt our evening." - an elderly couple in Bingley

"Don't cook usual food. Sometimes because young people can't cook and sometimes for religious reasons. For example Asian carer who won't cook sausage or bacon." - elderly man

Some of the positive comments given by elderly people or their families through the survey:

“I would like to mention the attitude of the ladies who attend my wife - each and every one is friendly, caring and gentle with her. They listen politely to her when she tells them stories of her past or her family.” – the husband of a service user

“I find the care good. The carers are kind and helpful and willing to make a drink. I find it easy to talk to them, their attitude is good and cheerful. This all goes to make my life easier.” – a service user
“Very happy with the service being provided. Carers are cheerful and friendly, look after my partner well.”
– the partner of a service user

“The care workers are always polite and caring and seem concerned about my welfare. The care workers do have a big caseload and sometimes I feel they have too much to do and time is limited.” – a service user
“There is a positive interaction between staff and my partner. This lessens his sense of isolation as well as maintaining his dignity and health.” – the partner of a service user

“The care workers are cheerful, friendly and obliging. I am usually asked to check if I need anything more before they leave.” – a service user

“More independence as this means I am able to live in my own home. Carers put me to bed, assist in and out of commode. Caring attitude of all carers, using persuasion and humour!” – a service user

The nine recommendations for improvement:

  • Aim for a person-centred approach that promotes the well-being of individuals;
  • Reduce cultural and language barriers and respect people's preferences about the gender of a care worker;
  • Specify minimum training and qualification requirements in contracts with independent providers, including dignified personal care, housekeeping, culinary skills, hygiene and dementia care;
  • Bring in a Code of Conduct for all providers and staff to uphold the privacy, dignity, rights and health of users;
  • Care agencies should address issues of short visits, unpredictable arrival times and communication about changes to visit times;
  • Improve information given to service users and their families about how to raise safeguarding concerns;
  • Embed into contracts with home care providers a requirement for regularly reviewing service users' needs;
  • Ensure medication is administered appropriately and safely and that this is accurately recorded;
  • Consider the impact on individuals of short, task-orientated visits driven by the current financial and organisational arrangements.