Elderly care 'reduced to a production line of tasks' as hard-pressed carers struggle to cope
Many left suffering in loneliness as care workers spend as little as 15 minutes in someone's homeReport says carers received little training before performing difficult tasksOne care worker said: 'It's only a matter of time' before an accident happens
22:04 GMT, 5 October 2012
Councils are treating vulnerable pensioners as a mere ‘production line’ of tasks to be completed by hard-pressed carers, according to a report which lifts the lid on the horrendous state of home care for the elderly.
Many are left ‘suffering’ in loneliness because councils are commissioning ever shorter visits, the report says, revealing the practice of ‘call cramming’ – when care workers spend as little as 15 minutes at someone’s home.
In one case, a carer was forced to leave a blind woman to eat a meal without assistance.
Vulnerable: Councils are treating pensioners as a 'production line' of tasks, according to a report
Another case was cited in which someone was left with no help to get to the lavatory.
Public sector union Unison questioned more than 400 care workers, 79 per cent of whom said they frequently had to leave clients too soon because they had so many visits to complete in a day.
One worker said elderly people were ‘suffering’ because of the 15-minute slots, adding: ‘Some of these people do not have any family and a care worker is the only person they see but you have to practically run in and out again.’
The survey also revealed how little training care workers receive before being expected to perform complicated tasks such as lifting people in and out of baths and changing urine bags.
Lonely: Many pensioners suffer from loneliness because councils are commissioning ever shorter visits
Some 24 per cent said they had never received any training for dispensing medicines, while 41 per cent said they had not received training on clients’ special medical needs such as dementia and stroke.
One worker said it was only a ‘matter of time’ before an accident happens, adding: ‘You can’t put time on human beings.’
Most care workers are employed by private companies which penalise workers for staying beyond the allotted time while more than half receive a shelf-stacker’s wage of around £7 per hour and are not paid for the time it takes to travel between visits.
The poor pay and conditions mean many people don’t stay in the job for long, leaving elderly people confused by constant changes in staff.
The Unison report comes after a survey by the UK Homecare Association found one in ten councils were imposing limits of 15 minutes on care visits.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘This report sadly shines a light on the reality for many people who rely on homecare – a production line mentality which limits the ability of staff to carry out their duties, and puts the dignity of those receiving care second to meeting arbitrary targets.’
Careworkers have said they have to leave clients too soon because they have so many visits to complete in one day
Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said: ‘This report is deeply saddening as it shows a disturbing picture of services stripped to the very bone and care staff stretched to their limits.
‘In this situation, care is, we fear, in danger of being reduced to a tick box list of tasks to be completed as quickly as possible.’