THE Daily Echo today calls on Hampshire councils to commit to giving our elderly the dignity of at least 30 minutes of care in their own homes.
Charities and elderly campaigners have already supported the move after we revealed that both the county council and Southampton City Council commission just 15 minutes of care from private firms for some frail and disabled pensioners still living at home – in a bid to save money.
In that time carers may be required to feed them and take them to the toilet.
Other councils have a minimum half-hour period, for example Bristol and Gloucestershire.
Anne Carty, from Age Concern Southampton, said: “I completely support the call to insist on at least 30 minutes being spent on elderly care.
“We hear from many of our clients about carers coming in and doing the bare minimum because their time is being so restricted. They feel they are being treated like commodities rather than human beings.
“They are having to pay for a service which does not represent good value in their eyes.
“We are shocked and appalled by the lack of time and money being spent on care for the elderly.
“Their dignity and wellbeing is clearly not being valued by local councils.
It seems that this is such a shortsighted approach to cost-cutting – just a few minutes of extra time spent on care in the home would surely prevent higher costs to the NHS and councils in the long-term.”
Don Harper, from the Southampton Pensioners’ Forum, said: “You can hardly do anything in 15 minutes. It takes that long to get some people out of bed. There should be at least half an hour, not including travel time.”
Chris Perry, a former social services boss and director of Hampshire Age Concern, said: “My concern is that over the years they’ve got far too prescriptive and don’t leave carers any discretion.
“I don’t think a time should be put on it at all. They’ve got to give carers the flexibility to respond to the needs of elderly people as they find them.”
Cllr Alan Dowden, Liberal Democrat opposition spokesman for adult care at Hampshire County Council, said: “An increase in time to 30 minutes would be sensible. To have a 15-minute slot puts too much pressure on carers. It would also improve the quality of life.
“Sometimes they are the only person that they see all day.”
Cllr Ivan White, Southampton’s former adult care boss, now in opposition, said: “I was unhappy with it and had raised the issue.
“The officers were working to try to change the system and reduce the number of 15-minute visits.”
The county council has introduced a new electronic monitoring system which precisely times when agency carers start and end home visits.
It will allow per-minute billing for care when fully implemented and help save Tory council chiefs an estimated £3.2m a year by paying companies only for care that is actually delivered.
The Hampshire Domiciliary Care Providers’ Association said that while it welcomed the principles behind monitoring systems to ensure carers had attended clients’ homes, it had been working with the county council to move away from “minute-by-minute billing”.
Hampshire County Council said that about one in seven visits it commissioned were 15 minutes and said that the same service was being provided but at a cheaper cost.
It said 15 minutes was “perfectly adequate”
for some people, such as reminding them to take medication.
Southampton, which does not have an electronic monitoring system, said that it could not provide figures on the proportion of 15-minute visits it commissions or how quality care could be provided in such a short visit.