ADULTS CARE HORROR PART 2
Read Part 1 by clicking here…
Carer Paul Murphy - who had previously worked for Inspirit Care in Bolton and Care4u at Home in Salford - was transferred over to Homecare Support, along with dozens of other carers in November, after Salford Council re-organised its contracts for elderly people's home care.
He, and others, believe that it is the shortcomings of Homecare Support's system which is largely to blame for the shocking 180 alerts for breaches of care, including missing visits and messed up medications.
In the previous article we revealed how sometimes two, or even three people would turn up at an elderly person's home for one visit, while other visits were missed completely.
"The rotas were as clear as mud and that meant people were missing visits and medication" says Paul Murphy "Other times I was booked by the company to do training courses and then accused of missing visits. But the company should have ensured that people received their visits by finding a stand in.
"The management blame the staff for their own shortcomings" he adds "The manager's phone manner was so aggressive…there's no two ways about it, I was being bullied. In the end the abuse over the phone got so bad that I had to say my phone was broke and communicate by email."
Paul also believes that corners were being cut in training…
"I was given a two hour training course in dispensing medication that should normally have been a three day course" he alleges "Staff were doing jobs they are not qualified to do."
As for Social Services or Salford Council finding out, Paul says: "There was no transparency; mistakes in rotas were covered up by the line manager and her daughter. If it was sorted, then that was okay. If caught out, you were on your own."
All these claims are robustly denied by Homecare Support which states "Our training programmes have been commended on numerous occasions, most recently for being fully compliant with National Minimum Data Set and forms the basis for our recent International Standards Organisation accreditation."
In response to allegations of bullying at Homecare Support, the company states: "At the induction meeting all staff were addressed by the Operations Director Dan O'Donoghue, who invited all staff with any concerns about anything to contact him directly…neither the HR Manager nor Dan received any complaints about bullying."
Paul agrees that he didn't make a complaint but adds "How do you complain when the person you are complaining about is the person you have to complain to?"
Another major issue that has come to the attention of the Salford Star from several sources is the frustration of carers over wages. Paul explains that if there was a double up of staff visiting the same person due to the company's incompetence, one of the two carers would not get paid.
Indeed, disputes over wages loom large, with some carers having to rely on £100 for the two week Christmas holiday.
"Wages have never been right from day one" Paul says "And at Christmas nobody received their proper wages. Like most others, I was due around £300. The wages were supposed to be in our accounts on Christmas Eve before 2pm but when the money did not appear and people phoned up, they were assured by the company that the money would be in their accounts by the close of business - instead all people received was £100. That had to last us two weeks over Christmas until the accounts staff came back in the office and sorted out the correct money."
"I am still owed around £400.00 for work I did before I left."
Homecare Support countered: "Staff who are paid on a weekly basis lodge their timesheets by Tuesday of each week for payment into their bank accounts by Friday. Since Christmas fell on Saturday this year, with Monday and Tuesday as bank holidays, the company made an advance of £100 as a gesture of goodwill, with the normal pay cycle resuming after the holidays."
Paul left Homecare Support a month ago and says he's relieved.
"I couldn't get out quick enough because the carers always got the blame when things went wrong, which they did frequently. For them to blame the workers is terrible because the carers are the ones who really care, and do a lot more than required to cover for the shortcomings of the company. No way can staff be blamed. They give 110 per cent."
This seems to be backed up by service users themselves, including Anita Calder who has been outspoken about Homecare Support.
"The standard of communication remains haphazard" she says "I recently called to say that my husband had returned from working away and I would not be requiring visits for several weeks. This was agreed upon but the carers still came regardless on at least three occasions."
Unfortunately we believe that problems described here by Paul and Anita are not only confined to one company but perhaps at least two more. Meanwhile, unlike all previous care companies operating in Salford, Homecare Support does not have a local office in the city. This is contrary to assurances made by Councillor John Warmisham in an interview with me in August 2010.
He told me then it would definitely be a requirement "that all successful companies bidding for the tender to provide care in Salford would have to have an office in the city".
Homecare Support has its local office in Altrincham town centre, a good nine miles from Salford, and it freely admits using the Ordsall Community Café as a meeting place for its business needs.
"We would use the cafe to pick up uniforms, contracts, rotas and ID badges" says Paul "but now they are using a carer's house in Ordsall"
We asked the Council if it considered that a café was an appropriate place to be running a care service from. We have, as yet, had no response to that question. However Homecare Support responded saying: "In the tender document issued by Salford City Council there was no requirement to have an office in the borough, but it indicated that the successful company should have an office within reasonable geographical distance - such as a neighbouring borough.
"The company uses the facilities at Ordsall because it is a purpose built community centre and is an excellent resource located in the community where care is delivered" the company added "Homecare Support uses this facility in a commercial capacity for which it is invoiced periodically by the Centre at the published rate. Each week it is normal practice for carers to deliver their timesheets to the senior carer at their home to save them time and travel costs of delivering these to the office. No services are run from carer's homes."
Amidst all the controversy, the hourly rate that Salford Council pays to the new care companies has increased by nearly 25 percent from £9.44 per hour to £12.24 per hour.
Homecare Support explained: "Salford City Council pays Homecare Support £12.24 per hour. In establishing the care contract between itself and Homecare Support, the Council abolished the 20 minute 'drop in' call and re-commissioned a 15minute call."
So there you have it - an increased number of calls for an increased hourly rate paid to the company. Obviously Salford Council thinks this works to its advantage but one Ordsall service user said: "They're cutting costs by cutting their hours. I only get quarter of an hour to help me wash and dress - what can the carers do in quarter of an hour?"
See also Nigel Pivaro's Salford Council Care Calamity click here