UNISON says monitoring of home care services by Scotland’s councils still not good enough

More than a year on since new guidance was introduced on social care procurement there has been little or no improvement in home care monitoring, says UNISON.

UNISON published a briefing today (Wednesday) following a series of FOI requests to Scotland’s councils looking at how councils are managing contract evaluation.

Among the questions, UNISON asked what percentage of clients are visited by council staff for monitoring purposes. There was a mixed response with many – such as Shetland, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Aberdeen and Renfrewshire – not collating this data.

Several councils – Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire – continue to rely on electronic monitoring, which is simply a quantitive check and does little to assess the quality of services delivered. Others – Aberdeenshire, East Lothian, Moray, Scottish Borders, South Ayrshire and West Lothian – do not undertake any direct monitoring.

Of those who do carry out monitoring, this varied widely with Highland and Argyll councils both reporting 100% while others, such as Inverclyde and Perth, stated just 10% and 5% respectively.

UNISON is calling for monitoring arrangements to be adequately staffed and to include site visits to service users.

Dave Watson, head of policy and public affairs, said: “There has been little or no improvement in the monitoring of home care services since new guidance was introduced last year, and it’s just not good enough.

“The responses from Scotland’s councils show that contract monitoring is limited, with very few visits being made to check service users are receiving contracted levels of care. And though monitoring of service delivery is improving, it is still inadequate.

“Spot checks by councils are crucial – they need to talk both to those who receive home care and to care workers themselves to find out if clients are receiving the care they need and also how the service can be improved.”

The survey also showed many providers are still struggling to recruit and retain quality staff. The statutory procurement guidance is designed to ensure fair work practices are a key element of contracts and, as social care is a service delivered by people, this weighting should be significant. However, a number of councils gave evasive responses when questioned and many who did answer reported very low weightings with Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Ayrshire, Angus and Dundee all reporting 5% or less.

Dave Watson added: “For a service that is almost entirely dependent on people for quality delivery, it is not acceptable that contracts are awarded to companies on a basis of less than 20% weighting for staff – many councils are awarding contracts on 5%.

“Scotland needs a quality home care service to meet the growing demand and also to ensure that patients who shouldn’t be in hospital are cared for at home. The reality is that the service at present is struggling.

“Carers need better training, fair pay and the time to care for the people they look after. The fact there is so little direct monitoring of the actual service delivery cannot be good for those who rely on it, or for the dedicated carers struggling to deliver this vital service.”

ENDS

Notes to editor:

You can view the full briefing – Social care procurement: delivering quality services – at: http://www.unison-scotland.org/2018/06/25/quality-social-care-procurement/