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Home carers being 'stretched to the limit', union finds

Unison Scotland found 88% of home carers said their visits were limited in time.

Carers: Staff said they were limited. (file pic)
Carers: Staff said they were limited. (file pic)

Home carers in Scotland are being "stretched to the limit", according to a new report from a trade union.

The survey of home carers by Unison Scotland found four out of five respondents believe services have been affected by budget cuts or privatisation, with the emphasis now on "quantity rather than quality."

A total of 88% said they were limited to specific times for visits, with many reporting this was too short a period to properly cater to a client's needs.

Nearly half, 43%, said they worked longer than their contracted hours and two-thirds, 66.5%, said they did not have anywhere to go between visits to have a meal, hot drink or toilet break.

More than a quarter, 26%, said they were not paid for their travelling time. A majority, 63%, said morale amongst their workforce was very bad or poor while 29% said it was good and 8% said very good.

The union is campaigning for local authorities to sign up to its Ethical Care Charter for home care services, which sets minimum standards to protect the dignity and quality of life for people who need home care.

The charter commits councils to buying home care only from providers who give workers enough time, training and a living wage, so they can provide a better quality care for those in need.

Stephen Smellie, Unison Scotland's depute convener, said: "This report highlights the shocking truths of a dedicated, caring workforce who are being stretched to the limit, often resulting in their own stress and ill-health.

"They juggle with travelling time and running late, to ensure their tasks are completed as best as they can, some often go back in their own time to make sure their clients' needs are met.

"The most vulnerable people in our society rely on the services our home carers provide. They deserve better, much better - and so do care workers.

"This should include a decent, and reliable, wage for the work they do, with proper facilities and a workload which allows them to do their job properly. They care for us, it is only right that we in turn care for them."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "This year we have allocated a further £250m from the NHS to integration authorities to protect and grow our social care services and deliver our shared priorities, including paying adult social care workers the Living Wage.

"This is on top of the £500m we're already investing over three years to support the integration of health and social care.

"We are working with Cosla and care providers to deliver a major programme of reform to adult social care. This will consider workforce issues and new models of care and support."

A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said: "We expect all care at home services to provide high-quality care that meets people's needs and respects their choices, rights and wishes. Care at home services must have sufficient staff with the right knowledge and skills to care for people. 

"We inspect all care at home services and if they are not meeting the right standards, have the power to require improvement. 

"We know from our inspections that most care services perform well but anyone with a concern about a care service can contact the Care Inspectorate on 0345 600 9527."

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