Unison calls on councils to improve monitoring of home care services

Unison Scotland has warned that direct contract monitoring of social service users is very limited and that few visits are made to check service users are receiving contracted levels of care.

As part of its research, UNISON submitted freedom of information requests to councils asking them whether they had visited service users in their homes to monitor if they were receiving adequate levels of care. The responses indicated that contract monitoring is limited to returns from the contractor and review meetings with them, meaning there is little monitoring of the actual service delivery.

According to UNISON, most councils have been unable, or unwilling, to answer whether they visited service users in their homes to monitor their levels of care, despite chasing them several times.

Some local authorities confirmed they undertake no client monitoring at all. Some councils confirm they carry out restricted monitoring e.g. electronic monitoring systems such as ‘Callconfirmlive’, a telephone logging system. However, while these systems confirm that a visit has taken place, they do not monitor the quality of the work undertaken.

The workers’ rights union outlined that direct monitoring is crucial to improving the quality of, and to tackling the current problems in, social care delivery. Most providers are struggling to recruit and retain quality staff and therefore councils are finding it difficult to help move patients out of expensive hospital care and into community settings.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland head of public affairs said: “We know the difficulties the workforce face when delivering home care. They need better training, fair pay and the time to care for the vulnerable people they look after. They tell us how stressed they feel they are not able to provide the service their vulnerable clients deserve. And we know this happens far too often.

“It is crucial that councils do spot checks, talk to those who receive home care and ask them if they are getting all they need, and that they speak to care workers to ask them if they feel their clients are being well served, and how the service can be improved. The fact there is so little direct monitoring of the actual service delivery cannot be good for those who rely on it.”

“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 per cent weighting for staff.  Many councils are awarding contracts on five per cent. Councils’ social care procurement strategy should ensure that a proper weighting is given to fair work matters and ensure that bidders are required to produce real evidence.”

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