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19th June 2013

Is Norman Lamb’s home care ‘crisis summit’ softening us up for the next big health and social care scandal?


An accident or design?

It may be an accident, but during National Carers Week, health minister Norman Lamb has convened a crisis summit in Westminster to discuss what he believes may be the next big health and social sector scandal - home care services for the elderly. Those attending include representatives of charities, councils and service providers such as private and voluntary care work agencies.

As part of the media coverage surrounding the event, BBC national TV news carried a story highlighting the neglect of one 83 year old. The incontinent lady is unable to get herself out of bed unaided and was left without a visit for up to 13 hours a day. CCTV showed inappropriate behaviour and poor practice by care workers.

System incentivises poor care

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Lamb said: “The majority of home care is good, but we have a system that can incentivise poor care, low wages and neglect, often acting with little regard for the people it is supposed to be looking after.”

Speaking ahead of the summit in a pre-recorded interview for the BBC, Mr Lamb suggested that the crisis in home-care for the elderly could be the next abuse scandal, on a par with the events at Mid Staffordshire NHS trust.

Reduced budgets puts pressure on services and home care agency workers are in some cases paid to spend no more than 10 or 15 minutes with an individual. This leaves pensioners facing a choice of either being dressed or having a meal prepared for them, during rushed visits.

In some cases, care workers are stressed and de-motivated. Some of the factors behind this include:

  • Care workers often go unpaid for travelling time leading to them earning significantly below the minimum wage
  • Many are paid below the recommended HMRC mileage allowance for use of their own vehicles for work, and means that they are not fully recompensed for running costs

An early warning to prepare us

It is possible to interpret Mr Lamb’s initiative as an early warning of things to come, a softener to prepare us for a scandal which it is impossible to keep the lid on. Stories of neglect in domiciliary care have increased over the last few years, and many have dismissed them as isolated cases. However, the CQC published data in February which showing that 26% of home care services failed to meet standards.

The government is due to announce plans for overhauling home care in the autumn. The review follows the reforms already announced including the appointment of a new chief inspector of social care, to be tasked with tackling abuse and neglect, and to address the question of minimum training standards for all care workers.

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It is impossible to ignore the significant role that reduced budgets may be contributing to unsatisfactory home care standards. However, QCS compliance management provides the tools that agencies need to ensure that neglect is avoided.

QCS makes sure the right care is delivered and that dignity of service users is respected.

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Thinking of starting a domiciliary care agency or expanding your care business to provide these services? Click here to download our guide to launching a domiciliary care agency.

You can also click this link to find out how QCS enablers domiciliary care providers to achieve more consistent service delivery by downloading our guide.

Click here to read the story ‘Crisis summit looks at how to improve the home care system for staff and service users’  at


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