"By bringing in companies from outside the city they have inflicted suffering and hardship on the most vulnerable people in society…We are hearing back from former carers and clients alike about the chaos out there" Nicola Donavon Care4 U at Home
"They cannot play fast and loose with people's lives, especially the sick or physically disabled" says wheelchair bound Anita Calder, 57, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and sensory neuropathy.
Anita has been receiving home visits for three years to ensure that she is fed and to help her with domestic chores while her husband is away working in Scotland through the week. She had nothing but praise for the company that looked after her prior to November 1st this year. But since then, everything has changed.
"My own visits have been missed and carers have turned up either at the wrong time or with no idea of what my needs are" Anita explains "I have been told from various carers of a 91-year-old lady, a double amputee, who was left without several visits. Nobody knows how vulnerable you feel especially when you get strangers coming into your home.
"I don't blame the carers, they can only go where they are told" she adds "The fault lies with the new company, Homecare Support, that has replaced the one that everybody was happy with."
Salford's overhaul of Domiciliary Care had been lambasted as a chaotic shambles by clients, carers and client's relatives alike since the reorganization of care took place across the city recently.
The reorganization affects over 1,400 Salford residents, classed as older and vulnerable, who receive home visits. It's seen Salford Council's Adult Services get rid of 15 out of 17 Salford based companies, replacing them with seven companies, most of which are from outside Salford.
Dozens of people, many housebound, have been reportedly left without visits for days on end, sometimes missing vital medication. There have been reports of either three carers turning up at the same time for a visit or just not turning up at all.
Following interruptions to her own care visits, and on hearing of problems affecting people even more vulnerable and dependent than herself, Anita is now determined to speak out
"Ideally I would like to go back to Care4Uathome where I knew the girls, a company I have had no problems with at all" she explains "What is the point in having an office in Altrincham when you are looking after people in Salford?"
According to a warden who runs a sheltered housing unit, who would not be named, the use of carers from outside the city is part of the problem…" We get them phoning up asking for directions" she said "which might explain why they have been late or sometimes do not turn up at all."
Back in September the Salford Star talked to Salford Council's Lead Member for Adult Services, Councillor John Warmisham, about the forthcoming reorganisation of care provision in the city. He told us that all companies would be required to have Salford based offices.
"All companies will have Salford bases" he said "The tendering process has come about due to contracts being up for renewal…and companies have won the contracts on the basis of performance, replies to a questionnaire and costing. The unsuccessful companies have not been able to meet the specifications."
When we put Councillor Warmisham's explanation of the tendering process to directors of one of the Salford based companies that lost its care contract they disputed his version.
Nicola Donavon and Kay Svolinkas ran Care 4U at Home from an office in Eccles for twelve years and have had an Excellent rating from Salford Council for five years running. They claim that the contracts were won and lost on the basis of a questionnaire.
"The whole process was based on how well you ticked the boxes" Kay explains "We were asked to racially profile and sexually orientate the carers who we employed, and feel we were penalised on the basis we did not employ people who fell into certain categories. We were told we had scored badly on diversity questions.
"Well of course we employ mainly white British people because we have been in business for several years and that was the demographic pool we recruited from, as are most of our clients" she adds "We feel we have been lied to, and that the clients have been lied to. They were told that they would receive continuity of care with the same carers being assigned to them. That has not happened and in many cases people have not received visits at all."
Fellow director Nicola Donavon underlines the sentiments: "If they are saying that the new contracts were awarded on assessment of performance then they are lying, none took place whatsoever, it was based solely on the Questionnaire.
"As for the contracts being up, that's rubbish" she argues "We never had a set time limited contract, it was just ongoing. Care4 U at Home has always met with standards set by Salford Adult Services.
"We understand that the Council needed to cut the number of companies in order to cut costs by rationalising" she adds "but the whole process has been unfair, and by bringing in companies from outside the city they have inflicted suffering and hardship on the most vulnerable people in society.
"We are hearing back from former carers and clients alike about the chaos out there. Clients want to come back to us, which they are entitled by law to do, but are being told to just give the new companies another chance."
Georgina Wood, whose 74 year-old mentally handicapped brother needs four visits a day, is also unhappy with the service her brother is receiving. He is also under the care of Altrincham based Home Care Support and she claims they have still not come up with a reliable rota for his visits.
"It's not the carers, it's the company" she says "Three weeks after the change over from the old care company I am still waiting for a rota. They claimed not to have received my brother's care plan from social services, so I had to take the plan down to their offices myself. When I got there it looked like a building site with wires hanging down from the ceiling. I was fourteen years with the old company that was based on Irlam's O the 'Height without problems, what are they doing with an office in Altrincham instead of Salford?"
"The company tries to blame the carers, and Social Services try to blame the company" she adds "but I have told Social Services they are at fault because the buck stops with them. They are the ones that sacked the old company and put this new company in place, based on their assessment."
Councillor John Warmisham, Salford City Council's Lead Member for Adult Social Care, responds: "In three companies, all or the majority of residents have the same carers and have experienced little disruption to their services. This has been helped by staff continuing to work in that area and moving to the new company. Two companies have been hit hard by staff going elsewhere and they have had to induct and train new workers.
"The new system has been in place for just one month and will take time to bed in to ensure all residents receive the care they expect. We have been pleased at the way the seven companies – four of which are based in the City - have been keen to work closely with us to make sure any problems at the beginning can be dealt with as quickly as possible".
Homecare Support responds: "Homecare Support was contracted to provide care to approximately 150 service users in Salford, commencing 1st November 2010. As part of the out-sourcing of this service care employees were transferred under the TUPE process from outgoing provider's employment to that of Homecare Support.
"Regrettably, around a third of these transferred employees opted, at extremely short notice, not to report for work on the contracted date of 1st November leaving the service severely understaffed and many service users short of care. Homecare Support acted swiftly to fill any gaps in service provision by moving its care force around the area and bringing staff in from outside the borough. However some service users experienced interruptions in their care plan. Homecare Support has agreed with the local authority a process to remedy this situation and is continuing to see improvement to the services delivered."
* Last week, Salford City Council Adult Social Care service was awarded an `excellent' rating by the Care Quality Commission. One of its recommendations, however, was that Salford Council "Ensure that service users know what action they can take when they feel their services may not be up to the standard expected."