Letter: Continuing scandal of 'flying'15 minute home visits?

Date published: 15 January 2017

Dear Editor,

It was reassuring to read recently on Rochdale Online that Councillor Iftikar Ahmed, the Cabinet member with responsibility for adult services, saying: 'We provide compassionate care and support day in day out to thousands of people who need and rely on our services' 'council adult services sets the standard', (Rochdale Online), 10 January 2017.

Long may such 'compassionate care and support day in day out' continue. Especially so since we all know that in the current bleak austerity climate councils are being forced to ration care because of deep cuts to social care funding.

I must admit that the accompanying document made impressive reading, as such corporately produced brochures are obviously designed to do, but I just wonder why no mention is made at all of 'flying' 15-minute home visits?

Would this be because Rochdale Council no longer continues to use what have been described as, 'undignified home care in 15-minute slots, despite official guidance against these flying care visits, and major concerns they deprive people of appropriate and compassionate care'.

As Rochdale Council admitted in a 2016 Freedom of Information response to leading charity Leonard Cheshire Disability (whose FOI requests found at least 33,305 people in England received 15-minute care visits in 2015/16), that, 'the support service pro-vided is based on individual need and may on occasion be less than 15 minutes'.

On 5 April 2016 Adult Care, Rochdale Council responded to the Leonard Cheshire FOI request by saying:

'Re: - request for information under the freedom of information act 2000

In response to your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, please accept our apologies for the delay, Rochdale MBC are happy to supply the following information:

(1) 'Do you provide 15 - minute (or less) domiciliary care visits for disabled and older people?

Domiciliary support is provided if appropriate following an assessment of need. The support service provided is based on individual need and may on occasion be less than 15 minutes.

It was also reported widely only this week in ‘flying’ 15-minute care visits still a bleak reality for thousands of disabled people', Leonard Cheshire press release (9 January 2017), and that:

'Of these, 16,311 received them in areas where councils admit to still using ‘flying’ visits for personal care to support people with intimate needs such as washing, dress-ing and eating.'

And that:

'Freedom of Information responses revealed that 34 councils (22%) are still commis-sioning 15-minute visits for personal care, while another 60 gave unclear responses when asked or did not respond.

'Short visits continue despite statutory guidance accompanying the Care Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015, stating: short home-care visits of 15 minutes or less are not appropriate for people who need support with intimate care needs.

'The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) also advises that carers must spend a minimum of 30 minutes during visits to help keep people well.'

Here in the North West, Leonard Cheshire Disability’s research found 6,587 people received 15-minute visits last year. Nationally, at least 30,000 people received 15 minute visits.

Would any of these faceless North West statistics be vulnerable and otherwise voiceless local people one cannot help but wonder?

The charity’s chief executive, Neil Heslop, said: “We should not accept that disabled and older people are still having to endure the indignity and disrespect of receiving flying personal care visits.

“All of us need time to wash, eat and drink for ourselves, and 15 minutes is nowhere near enough to do these essential tasks if you need support.

“The reality is thousands of disabled people have to choose whether to go thirsty, go without a hot meal, or go without the toilet during these rushed visits.

“Councils should be observing official guidance and putting an end to 15 minute personal care visits for good.

“None of us would want our family and friends to receive personal care visits as short as 15 minutes, so we should not accept this happening across the country to anyone else.”

In across England there are now at least 400,000 fewer people who are receiving social care compared to 2009.

This is despite a backdrop of 1.4 million more working age adults living with a disability compared to 2010, and at the same time as Rochdale Council has proposed to cut back on Adult Social Care funding, with the highly controversial proposal from Rochdale Council on AC-2017-301 Remodel supported living offer for people with learning disabilities to cut spending by £200,000 in 2017/18 ongoing & by a further £727,000 in 2018/19 to Adult Social Care.

Can Councillor Iftikar Ahmed, as Cabinet member with responsibility for adult services, give us some absolute assurances that proposals to axe spending by 2017/18 £200,000 ongoing and 2018/19 £727,000 will not as an outcome of spending cuts increase these 15 minute home visits, which have been described as a 'scandal' in the media, as the council is forced to find substantial cash savings that would substantially reduce quality of service delivered to some of those most in need of continued support?

Would Councillor Iftikar Ahmed also agree that despite official guidance against these ‘flying’ care visits, that the continuance of such visits ‘deprive people of appropriate and compassionate care' and is he able to confirm that Adult Care, Rochdale Council, will continue to 'set the standard' by discontinuing such visits in line with the clear guidance in the April 2015 Care Act?

This is important, since, 'at least 34 councils in England admit they continue to commission 15 minute visits for personal care, despite official guidance saying they shouldn’t do so’ - 15-minute care visits one year on', (Leonard Cheshire Blog), 10 January 2017.

The good news is that a number of councils have at last fallen in line with the April 2015 Care Act guidelines and stopped commissioning 'flying' care visits altogether.

Has Rochdale Council taken the necessary steps to do so yet, may I ask you Councillor Iftikar?

Yours ,

Andrew Wastling

The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.

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