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Council boss defends cost-cutting home visits to elderly
THE council boss in charge of adult services in Hampshire has insisted that 15 minutes IS enough to care for some elderly and infirm people in their own homes.
It comes after the Daily Echo revealed last week that there were serious concerns over the care of pensioners being measured by the minute in the county as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise.
Charities and campaigners for the elderly quickly moved to back the Daily Echo’s call for Hampshire councils to commit to giving the elderly and vulnerable pensioners the dignity of at least 30 minutes of care during visits.
But today Councillor Felicity Hindson, executive member for adult services at the county council, said that 15-minute visits are “appropriate” for some pensioners.
She said: “I would like to reassure Hampshire residents that Hampshire County Council continues to provide quality home care to everyone that needs it.
“We work very closely with individuals and their families to design personalised care packages. This could be a mixture of long and short visits along with supportive technology.
“The care package is agreed by everyone involved before suitable care is commissioned. In some cases, 15-minute visits are appropriate for the needs identified, for example to prompt someone to take medication.”
Criticism has also come from the care providers, who are warning that the care system in Hampshire is “at breaking point” as the council capped the fees it pays companies.
The council saved £4.9m in 2010-11 by paying less for social care.
A few providers have shunned the new contract but others are cutting costs by paying carers little more than the minimum wage. Some are now struggling with recruitment and retention.
Care workers say they must also have an eye on the clock with the introduction of a new electronic system which monitors the precise times they start and end visits.
But Hampshire County Council aims to save £3.2m a year by paying only for the care that is delivered and rolling out this clocking-in system, which Cllr Hindson said will cost about £700,000 over three years to implement.
“The system has been welcomed by many providers as it demonstrates that quality service they provide by tracking how long they are visiting a client for and at what time of day,” added Cllr Hindson.
“When fully operational families will be able to check online if a visit has taken place, giving that all-important peace of mind to family and friends.”
Concerns have also been raised about claims that some elderly and disabled people are being put to bed as early as 5pm due to changes to night-time care.
However Cllr Hindson insists that the council has not reduced its night cover service and that carers make more than 500 visits every day between 9pm and 10pm.