Residents forced to wait year for care-at-home packages in rural areas

Council staff devoting 'hundreds of hours a week' providing service that should be done by mainstream providers.

Residents forced to wait year for care-at-home packages in rural areas Shapecharge via iStock
Concern over care at home packages in rural Perth and Kinross.

It has emerged some Perth and Kinross residents are waiting up to a year for a permanent care at home package.

Council staff are devoting “hundreds of hours a week” providing a service that should be done by mainstream care at home providers.

Last week, councillors were told there were plans afoot for “fairly significant” changes to address the matter in the coming year.

The revelation was made as councillors discussed Perth and Kinross Council’s Chief Social Work Officer’s Annual Report 2020/21 at PKC’s final meeting of 2021.

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Councillors met virtually on Wednesday, December 15 to discuss a packed agenda.

In her annual report, PKC’s chief social work officer Jacquie Pepper highlighted “financial pressures and increasing demands across all sectors” as well as “workforce pressures and recruitment challenges in social care services”.

SNP Strathtay councillor Grant Laing expressed concern about the delay in residents getting care at home packages in rural Perth and Kinross.

The SNP group’s leader said the council’s Home Assessment Recovery Team (HART) did a “fantastic job of enabling people to leave hospital and get them settled back into their own home often to then be taken on by a care package.”

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But Councillor Laing queried how the expected time-scale for PKC’s HART to be involved compared with the actual time-scale – particularly in rural areas.

The Strathtay councillor told councillors: “In my ward we cannot get any home care packages arranged with the providers we try to provide and the HART team have to actually take on the case for up to a year in some cases. I was just wondering what the position is just now with the time-scales from getting the HART team transferring over to a more long-term package case.

“I fully appreciate the difficulty to get staff in rural areas. A lot of that is down to the paucity of affordable accommodation available for rent because of the number of short-term lets. I think that’s one of the reasons why we can’t attract social care staff or staff at that level of pay or care workers into the rural areas.”

Service manager Kenny Ogilvy conceded there was an issue but said they were reviewing home care and hoping to make “fairly significant” changes.

He told Cllr Laing: “HART is meant to provide short-term intervention to enable people to be as independent as possible and then pass over if they still have ongoing requirements to mainstream care at home.

“The maximum time is meant to be 28 days but – as you rightly say – unfortunately at the moment we are really struggling in a lot of cases to get the longer term care at home identified. We do basically have hundreds of hours a week that are currently being provided by HART that should be getting handed over to mainstream care at home.

“We are reviewing the whole model of care at home provision and we are hoping to make fairly significant changes in the coming year to try and increase that capacity especially in the rural areas.”

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Councillor Laing tried to ask a follow-up question but was denied the opportunity by Provost Dennis Melloy.

The SNP group leader’s question came five hours into – excluding an hour’s recess for lunch – a full-day meeting.  There were still several items left on the agenda to be considered.

Following the social work report being moved, Councillor Laing was allowed – along with other councillors – to comment. He made a call for PKC to undertake providing care at home.

He said: “It’s good that we are having this review about HART and care provision all over Perth and Kinross but especially in rural Perthshire. I think the only way – and I was wanting to ask – in moving forward is if we contemplate taking some of the care back in-house.”

“I think as a local authority we should be looking as part of a review at taking some of the responsibility back in-house and have council staff fulfilling the hard-to-reach areas of care at home.”

Story by local democracy reporter Kathryn Anderson