27 Mar 2014

Poor reviews: social care website highlights problems

It is like a trip advisor site for the care industry.  The GoodCare Guide site, where people who use or work within care homes or for care agencies can post their reviews.

And after evaluating 4,000 of those most recent reviews, the guide found that 31 per cent of people believed homecare agencies provide a poor or bad level of care and 33 per cent provided poor or bad value for money.

It is an indictment of an industry already under the spotlight.

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad

Andy Major, director of the guide, told Channel 4 News that the reasons for citing bad service came down to four key areas: “Lack of continuity, late calls, insufficiently experienced staff and little opportunity for feedback.”

And, indeed, when we visited one of the people who had posted on the site, those were exactly the complaints she was making about the home care her father had received.

Lesley Hatcher’s father Peter has dementia and heart problems.  He is on warfarin to help thin his blood.  Without it he is susceptible to strokes.

Yet Ms Hatcher, from Essex, discovered care workers were not coming the four times a day they were being paid for; they were not giving him the warfarin properly; they were not doing his laundry, so one day he was left without any clean trousers.  On one occasion he was left for four days without a shower.

The family are what is called self-funding.  That is they receive no local authority help.  They paid the Bluebird Care agency, Chelmsford in Essex, £16 an hour.

Ms Hatcher told us that she felt so guilty.  “My dad kept saying to me no one’s been, but because he’s ill I took no notice and I feel really guilty about the fact I didn’t believe him,” she said.

“I thought he’d forgotten because of his dementia. I trusted them too quickly… I had trust in these so-called caring people and they didn’t care for my dad.”

Bluebird Care said in a statement that they operate to a very high standard, delivering over 17,000 care visits every day but that one complaint was a complaint too many.

“We are absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of any allegations of poor care.  We are sorry if there are any instances we have fallen short of our high standards.”

The fact is, barely a week goes by now without a report on the dire state of the care industry – especially for the elderly but often, too, for those with disabilities.

The Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation revealed earlier this week that a quarter of a million older people have lost their state funded home care help in the past four years.

Another recent report claimed that people with dementia being cared for at home might see as many as 40 different care workers.

And the workers themselves have been revealed to be under huge pressure: on zero-hour contracts, paid the minimum wage, made to pay their own petrol costs, and given only 15 minutes a visit in some cases.

Even the Government admits it is a system in crisis as the elderly population grows and NHS and local authority finances diminish.

Norman Lamb, the Care Minister, says the tightening of criteria for care from councils has been happening over the past decade and it is continuing.

“So through the care bill we have been taking through parliament we are introducing a national eligibility criteria so we end the postcode lottery, but we have to do something much more fundamental.”

Mr Lamb said they had put £3.8bn into the fund to integrate NHS and social care, but by the end of this year £2.7bn will have been axed from English councils’ budgets for adult social care over the past three years.

Age UK describes it as a crisis.  Caroline Abrahams, the charity director, said sevices had been stripped to the bone.

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19 reader comments

  1. Rosalind Jarvis says:

    Could Victoria McDonald confirm that her report covers the whole of the UK, or is it just the area covered by NHS England?

  2. Alan says:

    Interestingly personal investment in the private care sector appears very popular with British lawmakers. One could say it was rather a profitable return.

  3. June Goatcher says:

    Following a stroke, I received care from Bluebird Care for a year. I was very satisfied and grateful for the help I received.
    There is, of course absolutely no excuse for poor care from those paid to help people, but it is important to remember how rare this is and not to blame the whole profession for the failings of a very few people

  4. Quality conscious Branch Manager says:

    First if all I would like to say I worked for Bluebird Care for a long time . I was a care manager in the Berkshire area.

    This report does not give a true reflection of the High Standards of Bluebird Care and it’s a shame they have been so publically shamed.

    I am a Branch Manager for Care Services and I do accept there are rouge companies out there that need to be shut down …

    When these reports go out I wish they would give the full statistics.

    But instead they give the reports that people chew over and in the mean time damage the reputations of the majority of the excellent care providers who do an incredibly difficult job balancing good care whilst trying to stay a viable service.

    I’m sorry to anyone who receives poor care and these issues need to be addressed on a case by case investigation.

    It’s also about time the government addressed the real issue of funding and invested in looking after those who are vulnerable. Realistic funding to providers to allow them to invest in training and quality monitoring and to achieve sustainability.

    Another issues is too many providers saturating the areas and more checks need to be carried out into why people want to start care services…This would help eliminate potential dodgy services in the first place

    When reading these reports please investigate it all…

    Many if us are doing this job for the right reasons and that is to care ….


  5. Christine Kiley says:

    What about those that are committed to caring yet are being told calls are being cut down ie, 15 min on a put to bed call, how on earth can you undress a person change their incontinent pads wash and cream the areas that are sore put night clothes on them , give meds, and a drink and help them into bed ensuring that doors and windows are locked before you leave. Oh and then spend 10 mins writing a correct detailed report of what’s been done…. Some of these service users cannot walk very fast so how can they be classed as not needy, who asseses the needs and have they actually been a carer . People pay good money for care £16/£20 ph but us careers get £4.50 up to £6 if we’re lucky , I have to pay for my own CRB check when it needs renewing and pay for my own uniform. A lot of us work extended time with no extra pay but are we recognised ? No we are just a numb who can be replaced and that’s why there is no continuity because the good carers are leaving to seek better paid jobs. I love my job and care very dearly for my S/U and this breaks my heart to hear of abuse and not being looked after properly . there are good carers so please don’t let us be tarred with those who don’t give a toss . My agency managers and coordinates are fighting a losing battle to ensure all our carers are vetted and trained but there will always be 1 or 2 which give us who care a bad name. Please listen to the carer also as our views are important too.

  6. carol de haan says:

    I have a friend who works for Bluebird ,my daughter did briefly,but is now getting more job satisfaction as an auxiliary for the elderly.They both enjoy the work, not the poor pay. considering the amount Bluebird are being paid per person. Without these workers [drones] Bluebird would not exist. They have to spread their working day between clients,only receiving pay for time spent ‘In a home’,any ‘Quality’ time spent on conversation,reminiscences,small things, we, who do not yet need care, take for granted, are given freely because they Care. The drones get no pay for waiting or travel. Therefore their day could consist of 4 paid hours ,over a 6-7-8 hour day.Something is seriously amiss with the system which allows such foul play.

  7. Anita says:

    Harrow Branch – Unprofessional and Uncaring.

  8. Anne-Marie Fewell says:

    Social care is totally screwed up. See my own blog for my experience at http://protectthevulnerable.blog.com/ . Sadly I am not alone and scarily most people are too vulnerable to fight. Petition pertaining to Social Care can be found at https://www.change.org/p/george-freeman-freedom-to-complain-against-social-care-without-fear-of-retribution


  9. Alison Cann says:

    Bluebird Cheshire East. May as well just paid for a bed maker, breakfast maker as that’s about all they did. My dad wouldn’t shower not entirely their fault but they were applying cream to his legs. One day when I was visiting whilst the lady was doing this. I asked don’t you take his socks off. Baring in mind he has diabetes and can not possibly take his own socks off. I said take them off. What a shock,those socks had not been removed since Jan when he went into hospital after a fall. I know this because there was a plaster on his foot the career asked who put that on,he said the hospital. This was in November so for 9 months they had not changed his socks. Yet had put cream on his legs more or less every day!!!

    He has now gone into a care home for respite because of this issue. Within 2 hours of him entering he had showered. I would not recommend blue bird to anyone they are not trained careers. Just cleaners and home helps.
    We paid for this service twice daily self funded what a waste of money. Could have asked any old person to go in and help him a bit because that’s all they did .

  10. Lisa jones says:

    I have Been a carer for a couple of years and made complaints regarding a care agency to CSIW as I was concerned about staff being sent to peoples he’s without a CRB in place
    I know of several others who reported this and that double handed calls were being done on a daily basis
    The just took details but never investigated it and the poor care continues
    It’s disgusting
    Pay is low staff have to pay own travel costs £5 to £10 per day as for providing meals some staff can’t even boil an egg :/

  11. Jenna Williams says:

    Having the misfortune to have the need to call in domincilliary careI I am writing a book about my experiences and not one good story to tell but a lot of horror stories.I would be interested to hear other people’s stories of bad care.
    My main conclusion is that it is not a real qualified job and more training should be given and a higher standard of intelligence, should be called for not the so called competence of an NVQ. It seems to make the carers think they are clever and cons the clients. The fact it is now called a diploma is an insult to people like me who worked hard at University to obtain a real diploma.
    Carers should do college training then should be paid for doing a real qualified job People with disabilities should be involved with training, as every disability or person is different, so clients are pigeon holed. It is NOT good enough

    They do not treat people with dignity and respect , yet after all the client is paying for the service and should be in control as opposed to be treated like a idiot by somebody half your age, half your intelligence and half your life experience

    1. Mary says:

      I can only count on one hand the number of true carers from agencies / government care agency I’ve come across. But they end up leaving because they’re tired from too many calls close together, spending half their time travelling and a poor relationship with their management who count pennies before staff morale. My parents have suffered terribly at the hands of carers who have no time and treat her like a number. These people would always put on a good performance when they’re being inspected because they need their job. Then when we complain about carers who really don’t care – the agencies get on the defence.

      Elderly people have differing and complex needs. So increasing carer pay isn’t the only solution. We shouldn’t have to pay to receive kindness and compassion. There also needs to be a much tighter evaluation of prospective carers. It’s not just the qualification. I have come across wonderful carers who didn’t get good qualifications, but already possess the qualities needed for caring. Putting the quantity of carers above quality of care doesn’t work. You can still run a successful business based on quality care. I think there needs to be a more in-depth assessments by the management. That really needs to change. Ticking the right boxes and having the right government inspection reports don’t do anything to improve care. I have had regular experience of poor agencies who got all the right ticks from government reports on the internet! Due to demand and high staff turnover, agencies end up casting their net too wide across the city, and all the carers seem to do is travel half of the day. No wonder the carers are always tired out! But this happens because of the high staff turnover. Change is very hard for the elderly, but this is imposed on them throughout the year with different carers rushed in to cover the gaps.

      Elderly people don’t just want to get care at home all day. They want to connect with others, not shut away in care homes / at home. Social opportunities definitely help well-being. Elderly people need to be able to access activities, but with cuts to local transport for the vulnerable this affects the bus operators badly that they have to greatly limit the number of buses. If only they could look forward to daily / weekly visits to day centres where they can mix with others, choose from activities, and get the care they need?

      More importantly, the value of human life seems to be so selective. The more needy or disabled are considered just too much trouble by the tick-boxing administrators. Everyone at all ages is valuable. Everyone has a contribution to make at any age. There’s also no perfect solution to this dire situation with home care / care home provision, but if only they could have their tired old labels removed and their real needs addressed as a valuable human being. That would be a start.

      1. Anonymous says:

        I totally agree. I have just sent my review of the homecare agency that send carers to my flat. I told the CQC. And their website allows you to place very detailed complaints about any care service. However, if you’re not computer savvy, I apologize :) Just that if you can go onto the CQC’s website, or Healthwatch England website, it makes the complaints process a lot easier. I think we should be allowed to name and shame them. After all, they’re meant to be looking out for our wellbeing, but most of the time, I get nothing from nothing. It makes me feel useless and detached from society. Home carers just do tasks. They don’t actually help us get out into our communities. They just do domestic things. So I’m not sure why others think that they do include us into our communities, because they so don’t. They will do a bit of housework for us, or help us with our shopping. They don’t help us to make new friends. They don’t take the time to help us socialise with others. No wonder we feel we don’t really have a life. Home carers are only task-based. They aren’t taught to help us with social integration. I wish the government would put that in their pipe, and smoke it. They haven’t got a clue. They just leave it all to social workers and the CQC. I’ll bang my head against a brick wall, if people start calling home care innovative or effective, because we all know as service users, we need more, to help us stay positive. Letting a home carer in, for one or two hours, to do a bit of dusting and cleaning, isn’t my idea of making me feel whole again. We need to feel emotionally and mentally secure. We just want to know where to find such. Cleaning my home, isn’t suddenly going to take away bad memories. Sorry, but aswell, I seen an article stating that robot carers are going to be the future of home care. Please tell me it isn’t true. How is a robot carer, going to look after our mental wellbeing? Why is it only ever about the physical stuff? We have emotions and some of us have mental illness, so it people think robot carers can help out with that, good luck, because technology can break down at any time. At least a human will have conversations with us. We are doomed. Mind you, I’d rather live in a care home again, than keep letting random new carers into my flat. Sorry for my long-winded rant. It’s really getting me down, this home care malarkey.

    2. Amanda says:

      I think your comments are very insulting to people who have worked hard to attain NVQ,s . It’s not the qualification you achieve its the training you are provided with that make a good carer and the fact hat they are passionate about the work they do. I have both qualifications and run 3 homes all to a very high standard with excellent CQC reports. I also know individuals with degrees in health care related subjects and they are not cut out for the job. At the end of the day anyone can purchase a qualification these days including a diploma but it doesn’t mean you are going to be good at the job.

    3. Jo brilliant says:

      My brother is with Mi homecare and as long as I live I will never forget what I walked in to 18 months ago.and I am still here.
      Feces under the his nails in his hair ,several ulcers in his mouth so he could not eat,carer’s throwing his medication away as he had difficult in Swallowing kitchen surface so dirty a paint scraper had to be used.a carer entering the home with her rubber gloves on and giving food and emptying the commode with the same gloves .knocked over by the front door as the carer had no safe key box number .he spent 4months in hospital and is now bed bond .the agent had his full care and cleaning duties. MY BROTHER HAS HAD A STROKE AND IS PARALYSIS down one-side memory loss and sight in one eye he is 67years old .

  12. Elaine says:

    Yes there has been far too much ‘blame someone else’ in the care industry.
    The facts are:-
    Most people are too greedy it seems to be in our nature.
    There is a lot of red tape and politics to overcome for care companies.
    There are governing bodies in charge of the care company services.
    Councils are running out of money to fund care packages and so they are a sinking ship, it is cheaper to find a reason to put people back into institutions and elderly care homes!!
    So decide what you want for your future!! When you grow old what would you like to happen, how would you like to be cared for? Or unfortunately should you or I become physically disabled, what care would you like, where and how?

    I know what I want, and as a carer I will set an example of how I would like to be cared for. After Christmas I will leave the company I presently work for and will work for ‘Bluebird Care’ where ever I am needed. I am no saint, I am merely human, sometimes moody, angry, happy emotional…..just a human being so I will apolagise to all people I may care for in the future now, for being human. But I will add that I love people, I love my work and will keep trying to do my best for all of you that need care and want to stay in your own homes.

    So lets all work together for what we all want.xxxxxxxxx

  13. Mike says:

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  14. Christine Kiley says:

    Good carer’s are being penalised by the inadequacy of the ones that slip through the net but surely the blame lies with the care agencies for allowing carer’s to be out on the road after a weeks training who have absolutely no idea. They all want to be the happy shopper Carer but when it comes to giving medicine, breakfast , or a good shower/personal care panic sets in. Communication entries are wrong (if entered at all) spelling and readable writing are atrocious, they just want to rush in and out. Not all carer’s are like this but I have encountered a few. Like when I questioned a new Carer as to why she was not correctly heating a service users lunch and her reply was if its too hot it takes longer to feed her and I don’t get paid for being over my time in a call. Nothing about the fact it could make make them seriously ill or worse. I am a complete and utter whistle blower and do not have one iota of guilt for being so, if I can show compassion and go beyond the call of duty just to make someone’s life easier why can’t others who choose care as their career.

  15. Honxia One says:

    I have documents and recordings about that people of bluebird they give fake promise to the workers and poor training . I already observe few cases of abuse only with watch the life training they have with the elderly .
    I really not want become old and be in the hands of company’s like bluebird

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