Labour to tackle scandal of short care visits

Ed Miliband will unveil plans for a 'care charter' which would raise standards
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The widespread use of 15-minute visits to the elderly and disabled by carers would be phased out by a Labour Government, Ed Miliband will promise today.

He will unveil plans for a “care charter” which would raise standards, prevent care workers being exploited and bring in a tougher inspection regime by the Care Quality Commission.

A nine-month inquiry by Baroness Denise Kingsmill, a Labour peer and former deputy chair of the Monopolies Commission,  found that two thirds of councils are  limiting carers to 15-minute slots, which account for an estimated one in 10 home visits.  Many carers  are not paid if they stay longer or for travel time between visits.

Her report estimated that between 150,000 and 220,000 of the 1.8m care workers are paid less than the national minimum wage, and about 370,000 are on zero hours contracts without a guaranteed number of hours. Four out of 10 have no specialist training for conditions such as dementia.

Mr Miliband will stop short of promising an immediate injection of money,  although Labour is expected to promise to switch some NHS funding  to social care to allow vulnerable people to stay in their own homes rather than be admitted to hospital.  He will argue that better use of existing budgets, improved planning and co-ordination can reduce the need for 15-minute visits, as Labour-run authorities including Southwark and Islington have done.

Mr Miliband said last night: “A Labour government will call time on clock-watch care. We will work with councils and care providers to end this practice.  The army of care workers, who carry out some of the most important work anyone can do looking after parents, grandparents and the most vulnerable in our society, are often exploited with real consequences for those they care for.”

A freedom of information request by Liz Kendall, the shadow Minister for Care, reveals that up to half of care providers may not be paying staff the minimum wage. She said: “Over £1m is now owed to care workers – yet neither HMRC nor the Government will tell us which companies are responsible or how many people have been affected.  It is totally unacceptable that companies are failing to meet their legal duties. The Government must immediately name the companies concerned, HMRC must take action in each case where it finds non-compliance, and dedicated care workers must get what they are owed.“

Baroness Kingsmill said: “Care for elderly and disabled people is a major issue for the mid-21st Century. We are likely to live longer and a large number of is will require care in our final years. Improving conditions for care workers and care recipients is a journey: we need to act now, but we need long term change and to truly value care as essential to the well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in society.”