Home care providers struggling to fulfill council contracts

Ninety-five councils have had contracts cancelled by private care companies, a BBC investigation has found.

Ninety-five councils have had home care contracts cancelled by private companies, an investigation has found.

The BBC Panorama programme found many of the country's home care providers
struggled to recruit and retain staff. Picture: BBCHome care providers struggling to 

BBC Panorama found that agencies were struggling to deliver the care required with the funding offered, forcing the companies to end their contracts.

It found that a quarter of the country's 2,500 home care providers were at risk of insolvency, and almost 70 had closed down in the past three months.

Recruitment problems

The agencies, which provide help for people living independently at home, also struggled to recruit and retain staff, Panorama reported.

One home care company, Cymorth Llaw in Bangor, Wales, was forced to hand back its contract with Conwy council because it felt unable to provide adequate care with the council's funding offer of £15 per hour.

The company's co-director Ken Hogg told the programme: 'We didn't think we could do it for the money – it was as simple as that.'

He said the company has always paid employees above the national minimum and living wage, but with pension contributions, National Insurance and training, as well as other costs such as mileage and travel time, the amount the council pays 'doesn't leave a great deal'.

'No choice'

The BBC programme also found a similar issue at home care company Mears, which cancelled a contract with Liverpool City Council in July, saying £13.10 per hour was not enough to cover the costs, and at least £15 an hour was needed.

Mears executive director Alan Long told the programme: 'That was a terrible thing to do for both service users and for care staff, we absolutely did not take that lightly, but frankly what choice did we have?

'We just cannot do the two most basic things that you need to do in home care – one, pay staff the absolute minimum of a living wage, and two, be able to recruit people, enough people to deliver the service that Liverpool council actually expected from us.'

The Local Government Association warned in January that the number of people who had unmet basic needs, such as getting washed, dressed or out of bed, could rise because of 'continued underfunding' of social care. It said those who received care could face shorter visits from carers.

Funding gap

Problems arranging social care in the community have also led to an all-time high level of delayed discharges in the NHS, with patients who are medically fit to leave hospital unable to do so.

There have been repeated calls for more money for social care, with charities, local councils and think tanks saying the gap in funding is between £1.3 billion and £2 billion.

In this month's budget, chancellor Philip Hammond announced £2 billion of extra funding for social care over the next three years, and said the system was 'clearly under pressure'.

BBC Panorama, Britain's Home-Care Crisis, will air on BBC One at 8.30pm tonight, Monday 20 March.

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