Have a drink or visit the toilet? 'Flying' 15-minute care visits are a disgrace, says charity

Government cutbacks blamed after two-thirds of councils slash elderly and disabled services

Disabled people are being forced to choose between having a drink or going to the toilet during “flying care visits” which last only 15 minutes and are increasingly being used by cash-strapped councils struggling to cope with rising demands on the social care system.

Two-thirds of local councils are commissioning 15-minute visits, despite serious concerns that they deprive vulnerable people of essential care, the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability said.

In some areas, three-quarters of all care visits commissioned were only scheduled to last 15 minutes. Freedom of Information requests submitted by the charity found that, overall, English councils were commissioning 15 per cent more “flying visits” than five years ago. Cuts to social care budgets mean that fewer carers are available and are required to carry out a greater number of shorter visits. The findings come as the Care Bill approaches its third reading in the House of Lords. The charity is calling for an amendment to make care visits at least 30 minutes long.

“It is disgraceful,” said Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability. “None of us would want family and friends to receive ‘care’ visits as short as 15 minutes. It is vital that Parliament backs our call to end the indignity of rushed care.”

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said use of such short visits was “unfair”, both on the disabled and carers. He said: “It’s unrealistic to think 15 minutes is enough time to help people who are older or who have a disability to do everyday things like wash, dress and get out of bed. We are proposing an amendment to the Care Bill which would make it clear that local authorities would have to consider a person’s wellbeing when arranging their care.”

One care worker, who responded to a confidential survey, said that short visits served only to “confuse and upset” people with mental and physical problems. “There is no time to reassure them and ensure they know we are only there to help and assist and that their concerns and problems will be dealt with sympathetically and quickly,” they said.

An 84-year-old woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that carers were: “Looking at the clock all the time. I end up choosing... Have I got time to check if they can fill the hot water bottle? Shall I choose between getting my meal prepared or them emptying my commode? Do I get a drink or do I go to the toilet? I get really lonely and I rely on the visits of my carers, but I know they are never stopping long.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) said care services were suffering because of cuts. “Unless local government finance is put on a sustainable footing, social care will remain substantially underfunded,” said Katie Hall, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

She said it would be impossible to “substantially raise the standard of care” without a significant increase in Government spending.

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