At-home care for elderly and disabled isn’t working in Wales, says councillor
Twm Owen, Local Democracy Reporter
The way councils provide at home care to the elderly and disabled “isn’t working,” a senior councillor has said.
Councillor David Daniels made his comments after a Torfaen Borough Council report highlighted that “the ability to recruit and retain social care workers has reached a crisis point”.
As a result the council has acknowledged it is failing to meet the demand for care and its own in-house short term care teams have been having to fill the gaps that private firms have been unable to meet.
Councillor Daniels said a “radical rethink” on care is needed and has suggested the service, which is currently mainly provided by an array of private companies reliant on contracts with county councils, should instead be run either directly or in a hands-off way by local authorities.
The Labour councillor, who is responsible for adult services and housing on Torfaen Borough Council’s cabinet, said he will be raising how such services are organised with other councils in Gwent, across Wales, and with the Welsh Government.
He said: “I will be advocating for us to be as open minded as possible about an in-house or not-for-profit organisation. I’m not ideological about this, whatever works, works. But this does not work. It doesn’t tick those boxes about giving staff what they deserve to be paid and the career prospects they deserve and aspire to.
“I don’t see that ever being achieved in the current system we’ve got. I’m being frank as we’re in very, very dire circumstances.”
The cabinet member said he was hopeful of pushing for change at a regional level as all five unitary authorities in Gwent are now Labour-led, but said the issue is UK wide and would require action from the Welsh Government.
He said all councils are facing “the prospects of further swingeing public service cuts” which would impact how councils can provide for residents.
A report from the Gwent Regional Partnership Board, the forum which brings together the area’s five authorities, last week warned that staff in domiciliary care “continue to leave the sector due to poor pay, terms and conditions and costs of employment”, such as driving and registration expenses.
It said the cost-of-living crisis and rising fuel prices have only made that situation worse.
Cllr Daniels was speaking at a Torfaen Borough Council meeting where members were presented with the director of social service’s annual report for 2021/22.
It highlighted the recruitment crises and that at the end of 2021 there were nearly 1,100 hours of care in the community waiting to be commissioned in one week that meant nearly 100 people were waiting for care or for additional hours to be added to their existing package.
The council has also opened the community hub Ty Glas Y Dorlan, in Cwmbran, which is intended to ease pressure by providing more short stay accommodation and teams to assess people’s care needs while at the centre.
On children’s services the report said the number of “looked after children” taken into the council’s care had reduced for the first time seven years. The council ended the year with 407 children looked after from a starting point of 446 and a previous high of 474.
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The Councillor’s comments in relation to the working conditions of care workers is spot on but the truth is worse than he thinks. Companies in the care sector range from the very good to ones who don’t pay their staff for 3 months then threaten them with zero-hour contracts if they complain. Seriously. My Trade Union branch organises care workers and some of the stories are a disgrace. It is always the same companies too. No wonder people leave a profession they love after the treatment they get. Welsh Government must bring these contracts back into the public sector ASAP.