Concerns over home care ‘mess’

Carers stock. Picture: Esme Allen
Carers stock. Picture: Esme Allen

Concerns have been raised after a huge shake up in home care saw North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) awarded multi-million home care contracts to just three providers.

Until the contracts were put up for renewal more than 20 domiciliary care companies had council contracts to provide care for elderly people at home across the district.

Care companies have described the situation as a ‘mess’ while the new providers rush to recruit staff ahead of the contracts start dates later this month.

John Kneller owner of St Margaret’s Home Care which lost its contract with NYCC said: “The way things are going, it is a mess, but these are some of the most vulnerable people, somebody needs to care for them.

“These three companies are expected to replace the experience of 23 companies, and think they can transfer staff from other companies. Two of them aren’t even based in Harrogate, they aren’t even care specialists.”

The new contracts, worth £2.5million per year have been awarded to the Mears Group, Castlerock Recruitment and Harrogate-based Continued Care.

The Mears group, which provides building repairs and maintenance alongside home care, and Castle Rock Recruitment have launched recruitment drives in the district.

The Independent Care Group, which represents care providers in North Yorkshire, said it is concerned as recruiting for the care industry is very difficult.

Keren Wilson, chief executive of the Independent Care Group said: “We have had concerns raised to us about the fact that two of the providers are outside of the area.

“It will be very difficult to recruit people to work in home care. We are concerned for existing providers and for the clients, they want to keep the people who care for them the same.

“This is personal care, people coming into your home to give you a bath, it is very personal and people should have a choice in it.”

Last month a report by the UK Home Care Association Ltd (UKHCA) found that poor working conditions and poor pay were leading to a high staff turnover rate in the industry.

North Yorkshire County Council pays on average £16.50 per hour for home care in Harrogate, above the UKHCA’s ‘minimum’ requirement, however a 15 minute visit would be paid just £4.13.

Mr Kneller said: “These carers have got so much responsibility but they don’t get paid well because of the contract.”

Ms Wilson added: “We understand that the council is facing cuts from government funding every year and are under enormous pressure.”

NYCC say this shake up has its benefits, and that cost was not the deciding factor in awarding the contracts.

Kathy Clark, assistant director of commissioning for health and adult services at NYCC said: “We had very patchwork offering across Harrogate, now there are three providers we can work closely with.

“The procurement process took into account both affordability and quality, we balanced it looking 60 per cent at the quality and 40 per cent at the cost.”

Richard Webb, corporate director for Health and Adult Services insists that the new contract would provide the highest quality care. He said: “Our new contracts are even more exacting in terms of consistent and timely care and a personalised approach.”

The council say their aim is for as little disruption as possible for the residents who are being cared for. Arrangements are in place so that staff members working at a company which lost out in the tender process can apply to transfer to the new companies, however many firms will continue to offer services through direct payments so it is unclear how many staff will move.

Mr Kneller said this message hasn’t been clear enough: “These are little old ladies, getting upset because they have a letter saying their carer might not be their carer anymore.”

When asked about the rush to recruit a spokesperson for Mears said: “We are actively recruiting local people who want to make a positive difference to people’s lives,” and added they offer job satisfaction and career progression.

Ian Munro, chief executive of Castlerock Recruitment added: “We were appointed as a framework provider for the Harrogate area by NYCC, following a thorough and robust tender process. CRG is opening an branch in Harrogate this month, from where we will employ and train local people.”

The third provider, Continued Care, is a family-run business based on Hornbeam Park which has been running since 1993. A spokesperson said: “Our staff have already enjoyed getting to know new clients and we look forward to caring for them over the coming months and years.”