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Britain's Homecare Scandal



Kusum Rawal
Panorama's investigation found serious failings in home care for the elderly

Thank you for sending us your comments. We received hundreds of responses to Britain's Homecare Scandal: A Panorama Special.

The debate is now closed but a selection of your views are published below.

The programme was broadcast on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday 9 April 2009.


My mother had wonderful carers who talked about their children and sang with her during their 30 minute care visits provided by the local South Bucks Authority. She was lucky. I have worked as a Home Carer and a visit anything less than 30 minutes is not on. Songs connect people together and can make visits more enjoyable, especially for those who have dementia and who may be anxious. Whether cared for at home or in a Residential Home it is a crime that so many carers only spend on average 6 minutes when communicating with the elderly. They deserve better.

Molly Dee

I would just like to say that we have had to change care agencies 3 times. Carers sometimes did not turn up (so no meal given or drink), medication not given, food not given in the way instructed and very often instead of staying for the time being paid for (1/2 hr) they would only stay a matter of minutes so therefore not doing the things you needed to be done.

Julie Kershaw

This is worrying. I'm a home carer in Somerset and i work to very high standards and nothing like what you are showing in this programme. I show care, dignity and respect at all times and certainly do not rush my calls or even answer my phone in someone's house.

S Coles

I own a Domiciliary Care Company, and feel that your program is very one sided. You haven't advised the viewers of the constraints we operate under. We are contracted by Social Services departments to provide care to the elderly within 15 minute visits.

Malcolm Patrick

Having seen the program on carers I am absolutely furious with the government over their lack of responsible checks on care companies. Mum who died last year had excellent carers because this was run by social services and not care companies. I have been fighting for more care and consideration and dignity for the elderly, and I will be taking up the program with Members of parliament and demanding answers on why this government is neglecting their duty of care in putting into place a strict set of checks on care companies who seem to care more about profit than human beings. These people are not scraps of waste to be ignored, they don't deserve, they have a right to be treated with dignity and care, and feeble get out excuses as shown in the program just will not wash, and before long some of these vulnerable and important people are going to die or become seriously ill if something is not done to stop what can only be described as cowboy companies operating in this way. It is apparent that this is only the tip of the iceberg and i will be demanding to know what the government is going to do about the results of what has been shown on your program. This needs highlighting more and should not be swept under the carpet.

Chris Caudle

I am sickened by the abuse of elderly people by these companies only intent on lining their coffers with public money. All care services should be delivered by councils who are answerable to the public.

Brian Williams

I am a registered nurse and lecture in Health and Social Care. Watching the programme is of no surprise to the nurses that work within the Health sector. This is just another symptom of the lack of respect for the caring PROFESSION and the market driven forces of Government policies. Treating people with dignity does not cost money although training does, however the lack of respect for the caring profession reflects within its workforce.

Roberta Berry

This makes me so angry. I have a friend who's father is ill and requires an ever increasing amount of help; he has a progressive disease. His carers have failed the family more than once but if the family complains, the 'carers' exact revenge on the family by rough treatment and rudeness. This is all our futures...

Lisa Hood

Your programme has highlighted the problems encountered with care agencies nationwide, not only caring for the elderly but young people as well. It is a disgrace to call most of these companies care agencies as most of them could not care less. All they care about is money and exploiting the most vulnerable in our society.

Hilary Wadge

I am just watching your programme. I also worked as a carer for 18 months with no training and no criminal check, although I paid them the money for one. I had to leave as the way the company treated the elderly, 30 mins each call, no travelling time taken into account, only interested in money, not the people. It upset me all the time the way old people were treated.

Judy Jones

First, I would like to congratulate the BBC for an excellent documentary, well done. My partner is a carer and several months ago she worked as a home carer. The stories she would return home with echo many of the scenes shown on the documentary. With little training and working on minimum wage and regularly doing shifts from 7am to 10pm it's not surprising mistakes are made and corners are cut. Her schedule was worked out so tightly that it never allowed sufficient travelling time or for any visits running over and so patients were 'short changed' in terms of the time she spent with them. It scares me to think people with barely any training can be allowed to undertake such an important role. Perhaps once the government has got its act together regulating the financial industry they can turn their attention to what seems to be another badly regulated industry. The documentary identified a certain companies, but I strongly suspect many other companies in the UK also have significant flaws in their service delivery. "Something has to be done."

D Hattle

It' good that you have highlighted bad care companies but don't tar us all with the same brush! I love my job as a homecarer and give quality time with all my clients. It would have been nice to hear that there are good care companies available at the end of the programme.

Rosanna Wharmby

Your programme shed light on a massive problem nation wide, I have had endless problems with care agencies for both parents, From stolen wallets and cash cards to carers not turning up or arriving so late and not being trained. Recently offered that option again to rejoin the system, in order to care for my mother, I have opted to leave work to look after her myself, I would not let anyone from an agency through my front door again.

Julie Heggie

I am a District Nurse and am not surprised by any of these findings. Social Care is patchy and inconsistent. Carers should be attached to nursing teams within GP Practices, that is the only way to have true control and proper feedback about quality of service. Our elderly and dying deserve better! It is a national scandal that there care comes down to finance.

Pat McGovern

After watching this programme I felt very a shamed. I work for the local authority as a senior homecare assistant. I am responsible for providing carers in the community to the elderly. Watching the programme I can see that its all about making money and not providing good care. Unfortunately even care provided by local authorities is not 100% this is due to lack of money and resources. In West Sussex 2 years ago we lost 36 senior homecare assistants due to voluntary redundancies. So in my office we went from 10 to 4. So this has had a major effect on the care being provided. The government need to be given more money to enable care to be provided adequately.

Dee

Excellent programme, the content of which will have come as no surprise to most of us. I believe such problems will continue while care for the elderly is hived out to profit-making organisations.

Ann Barrowcliffe

My parents are 92 and 90. My dad has had a number of strokes and my Mum is a full time carer for him. A careplan was to be set up for my dad before he came out of hospital a few weeks ago. The only thing my Mum requested help for would be help once a week with lifting my dad for a bath. This was refused on grounds of health and safety for the employees!

Jane Ross

Our elderly deserve better treatment. A friend of mine became a carer, but the immense pressure she was put under by her employer was completely unacceptable & unrealistic. She would be working 14 hour days to fit in all her visits with only half an hour for a break. Some nights she would get in after midnight to find she had extra visits pushed through her letter box which were for the next morning from 7am. My Mother is in sheltered accommodation and has excellent care. She has 3 visits a day & they provide her with a 2 course meal every day. The fact that the carers are based in on the premises means less time from travel gives them more time to care. This is the way forward. My Mum has her own space with all her things around her, she has a social life within the community, she has her dignity & a good of life.

Susan Bean

I organise Care in the Community. I work for local government, in-house domiciliary care and we now have to compete with these 'Private Care' companies. I am worried. A good investigation and raises a lot of issues. Please continue to turn every stone.

Mrs S Booth

I have just watched tonight's programme and am totally appalled. I have just been made redundant from a job i have been in for nearly 8 years. I was a support worker looking after the elderly, in the community who had mental health problems Alzheimer's, dementia etc. Unfortunately was made redundant as our company wasn't granted funding by the local council, even though CPNS, Social workers and OTs all highly praised our staff and the service we provided. Care UK has recently won tender in our area and a few other companies also. In my job i came across different care agencies, who also looked after some of our service users, and the same factors that where highlighted in your programme, i also came across - missed calls, shortened visits and saying had given meds when they hadn't. Cheaper care is not always the best. Each person is an individual and should be treated with utmost respect and given dignity and choice.

Michelle Ashley

There must be on the spot inspections of care agencies and the way they operate. We had carers for a year for my terminally ill mother and they arrived at different times each day, rushed in and out and were reluctant to prepare anything to eat. It was meant to be a half hour call three times a day but was often five or 10 minutes, although their notes said different, of course. I think these practises are country-wide and endemic.

Joyce Matthews

I was deeply saddened by the programme . I work in the care industry and work hard to give the best care for the clients in my care . The system lets these people down and these stories are heard all over the country and I hope improvements will be made.

Suzanne Giles

Well done, I have suffered badly from bad care. After leaving hospital it was 4 days before anyone came to see me despite the fact that a so called 'care' package had been put in place. Luckily my son came to help me. I never knew when they would come to get me up and sometimes missed me all together. I was able to shout for myself and am now fully recovered. God help the really vulnerable, I would not EVER want to have to depend on them. Again well done to bring this to the attention of the powers that be. I just hope it makes a difference.

Bunny Kimbell

I have recently become a care worker after caring for my mother. I realised that the £8 per hour advertised wage in fact equated to less than the minimum wage when all the costs were taken into account which had to be born by the worker: all running costs of a car - no mileage allowance, all parking charges (my patch includes inner city pay & display areas) and 'waiting time' is unpaid. Waiting time is maybe 5 or 10 minutes in between each scheduled visit which is in fact taken up in travel time. Travel time also has to be 'stolen' from the client's allotted time. Workers are unpaid for this waiting time, which can be as much as 20% of your day - reducing the pay per hour considerably. I set all this out on a spreadsheet (it helps that I have a Maths degree) so that I could work out why I was coming home with so little pay after working so hard for so many hours! This is why the private contractors can outbid each other and why it is so beneficial for the local authorities to out-source the work to agencies. The workers are bearing the costs of the outbidding war - and they are already the lowest paid anyway & the least able to bear that cost! If the workers were employed direct by the Local Authority, the Unions would not allow the workers to be treated so badly.

Pam Hine

A really excellent, if horrible and shocking, programme - I work in the NHS as a chaplain and have a lot to do with elderly and vulnerable people. I know how very hard staff work on the wards in the hospital I work in that are dedicated to care of the elderly. It is horrifying to think that in some parts of the country people who come into hospital in a crisis are going to go home to what is tantamount to serious neglect. The worst aspect of the whole system was the auction to provide the cheapest care - which must equate to the skimpiest. I don't blame the carers - nor even their managers - but I think it is disgusting that people like "Lady" Mary Beattie make money out of the sufferings of old people and the exploitation of low paid workers. It should be stopped. If homecare was taken back on by social services then there would be proper control and monitoring. Thank you, Panorama, for an outstanding piece of investigative journalism. Now let's see some action!

Jeremy Pemberton

I was very moved by the program. I have recently left a private care company, which i may add is similar in some ways to shown on your program. However the carers i have worked with provide excellent care to the people who require it, the problem was the office. We had no rotas, were never paid right, never told of changes to residents, the office expected us to go miles out without getting paid extra mileage. It was terrible. And i loved the job, the people i looked after were so nice, one even made me a cup of tea and a crumpet every morning, without me even asking! I had to leave due to disorganisation and now work for the NHS and hope one day to run a company or be someone of authority in care. As I have spent a lot of my life looking after my grandparents, i have always and always will treat the people i look after like i would want my grandparents to be treated. Keep up the good work.

Andrew Jones

I think your programme on homecare was totally unfair and showed what can be a very dedicated profession in a very poor light. I have worked in homecare for almost 5 years for an independent provider and can assure you that we have a well trained highly motivated and dedicated team of carers who not only do what is asked of them but will also do anything necessary to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of all there clients no matter how thankless this can sometimes be. It's a great pity that showing companies like ours would not make prime time television viewing.

Alison Benn

I first started my health care profession 4 years ago as a home carer and at the time I was just 18 and felt I was really getting out on my own and independent but I soon felt that I was being neglected by my employer and they hardly checked on me, although I had no previous experience except for some training in the hospital I got straight into it and really enjoyed my job for a while but there is also a tough job as a carer not to get too close to your service providers and then they rely on you which happened in my case and after a year I could not handle the responsibility given to me at that age and was feeling very down but I did leave knowing that care work is something I will do for the rest of my life and I want to make a big difference one day. I think that the CRB checking is an recurring problem as that happened to me also, but I feel the standards need to be made higher as the company I worked for got away with a lot of checks.

Clare Jones

I am very glad that you made this programme. I have been a professional carer for five years. You were right to point out the failings of the system. I was grateful that you didn't put the blame on the carers themselves - who in my experience only want to do the best for their elderly and vulnerable clients. But it is often impossible - there is never enough time allowed for each client. I think one of the solutions would be to encourage more people to join the profession. As your programme highlighted it is a responsible job and there should be mandatory training and also registration. The pay is far too low and should reflect the importance of the role. The people in charge of the care agencies should take proper responsibility and ensure they meet the clients and work with them to produce a comprehensive care plan rather than placing this burden on their staff who often end up doing the first visit with no prior knowledge or information.

June

This programme did not, unfortunately, surprise me at all. My mother (almost blind, dementia, almost immobile) has been receiving care for four years, and whilst the service has not been as bad as that shown in the programme, it has often been very disorganised. Like your researchers, I too found that 20-minute visits were logged as 30 minutes. It doesn't sound much but it amounts to a 33% overcharge! The stupidity of the whole systems is this: Care was originally provided directly by the Council. By farming it out to private companies, whole layers of directors, shareholders and managers are introduced, all creaming off money. Hence either costs go up, or service goes down. It's blindingly obvious to everyone - except local Government it seems. And our old folk are suffering as a result.

David

I feel this programme was very unfair as it did not highlight the good care providers, of which there are many, and therefore put them in a bad light because they were not represented. Maybe it should have been mentioned that CSCI reports can be accessed on line so that clients/relatives can at least look at annual reports and choose carefully who provides that care.

Brenda Allen

I am a solicitor and deal with elderly people all of the time. At last someone is taking this problem seriously - in my experience the only elderly people who get any kind of reasonable care are those who have strong family members around them or a professional who can shout loudly and get something done. The situation in relation to home care and care of elderly in hospital is abysmal and I like many others feel the situation is hopeless. The whole area needs a radical re-think and to involve people who really care about the outcome. Now that Panorama has brought it to the country's attention. What is the next step?

Sheila Rowland

Having watched this programme I applaud the fact that it addresses serious issues with certain care providers. However, knowing someone who works in the care sector, I feel that the programme was VERY negative about the care sector as a whole. At no point did it acknowledge the fact that there are care agencies out there who in fact DO meet(and exceed) national care standards, who DO provide high quality care for their clients and who DO treat their carers with respect and provide them with achievable schedules. I am saddened that Panorama did not, in any way, attempt to show the other side of care work and instead chose to score a few quick points.

Scott Hadden

Well Done Panorama, congratulations on this expose on the real picture of care of the elderly in the UK. I was particularly interested in the Scottish situation and the tendering situation in South Lanarkshire. Our own local authority has just been involved in the competitive tendering for home care services in our area. I intend to email councillors and urge them to watch your program on iPlayer. We have a true picture of the situation in people's own homes throughout the UK. I work in a different branch of the care sector and know what a struggle the Scottish voluntary sector is involved in, trying to compete with large care companies who take costs down to the bare bone when the local authorities insist on the re- tendering for contracts following the dictates of central government procurement guidelines. I hope that your programme greatly raises awareness at government level and is a catalyst for the change which is crucial in the provision of care to our most vulnerable people. It is abhorrent in a civilised society that vast sums of money are thrown into the rescue of our economy, whilst our frail elderly suffer poverty hardship and scandalous affront to their dignity as human beings.

Fiona Scott

I have always followed BBC Panorama and enjoyed is investigative reporting. Seldom, however, have I been so upset after watching a programme. These poor old people and the gross lack of respect toward them and the very poor standard of care they were receiving was absolutely disgusting. The Government must step in and bring care standards up to an agreeable level. These old people must be treated properly. I am 57 and may require care myself sometime, and I hope it will be a lot better than that.

Ian Middleton

This program brought back lots of bad memories for me and the poor quality care my father received from his council home helps. It seems to me that they all use the same tactics and tell the same lies with their extremely short visits and NO care being shown at all. Some of my fathers care workers would open his door and shout in "are you ok son" if they got a reply that was their visit complete. I complained to the social work dept who's response was to stand up for their workers and just send someone else out next time. My father eventually was taken into hospital where he passed away.

Peter McGilly

I watched this program with despair, I privately own a care company in Halifax. I have in the past provided care for elderly people but now only support people with disabilities. The reason for this is due to the fact that I couldn't face the fact that some services had to be provided within 15 mins per call, what does this say? what respect can we provide within an allocated 15 min slot? It sickens me that care staff are not given the support or training to be able to stand up and say things are not right. Why on earth are we as a society happy to accept the fact that this is how it is! Why are councils paying for inadequate services? Why do shoddy companies get awarded contract after contract even though they are failing? Don't we owe the people of earlier generations the respect and dignity? This is a matter of standards, this is a matter of respect, not cost. My parents are not an item on ebay or any other bidding site. This is totally unacceptable. Am I on my own with this?

Dawn Hartley

I am glad you have highlighted all these situations it is about time someone stood up for our elderly. I have worked in the care industry for nineteen years and pride myself in giving excellent care to all my service users. It makes me so angry that our elderly are being treated this way. Most of our elderly have fought to make this country what it is and this is how we repay them. These care companies who do not meet the standards should be given three months to change and if they do not comply then they should be closed down. Unfortunately there are good carers out there that have pride in what they are doing but are run off their feet for £5.80 an hour. Hopefully something will be done to tighten up the care standards.

Maxine Oram

I am a carer myself and have worked in caring for more then ten years. I have worked in the private sector, they are only interest in making a profit out of very valuable people. We were always understaffed, when I first started we had no training ,you just got on with it, no time to spend with the clients. I find the whole system very demoralising and sad that we put profit before people. I no longer work for this sector.

S Sweeten

Well done for your report - however the scale of abuse goes a lot deeper than people realise. I have given up my career to look after my elderly parents myself as I do not trust any of the care agencies. Hope you do a follow up as no changes will happen. No one cares.

Wendy Finikin

I can only confirm what was shown in the Panorama programme tonight. My mother has carers in 3 times a day since leaving hospital after a 5 month stay 5 weeks ago. Although the care is generally ok, she has different carers every day, they come at all hours or one day missed the lunch-time visit completely. My mother can only walk using a frame, but at 88 is still very alert. She has overheard carers telling others that there is no need to stay the full time allowed, and indeed they are hard pressed to do so as they often ocme here at 6.30 pm to put her to bed, having another 12 or so visits still to do. They forget to give her meals, do not leave enough for her to drink, and sometimes treat my mother as if she were a child. She is phýsically unwell, but is not senile. Some of the carers are excellent and very keen to help: others obviously did not choose this job out of a sense of vocation.

Caroline Metz

I found your findings absolutely horrific! I would hate to find myself or one of my family left in this position. Why doesn't the Government help families more so that they can look after their aged parents/loved ones themselves. I'm sure, like myself, more people would do this if they could afford it. I took care of my mother-in-law in our home for 28 years, until she died at 99. Luckily I worked locally and just four days a week, so was able to get home lunch times as well. However, because I earned more than £42 a week I was not given any financial help at all from the Government so did it out of love and respect. But having seen your programme tonight, I feel so glad I was able to.

Ann Hicks

I am a former district nurse. A lot of what i observed tonight used to be described as nursing care, given by nurses supported by health care assistants. Of course this was more expensive than current provision, but the bean counters know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, especially nursing skills. How much are nurses to blame for allowing this to happen?

Janet Anfield

I'm not at all shocked by the findings on Britain's Homecare Scandal. I am a carer for an elderly lady who suffers with Alzheimer's and diabetes. I have to rely on these 'care' agencies to take over from me when I'm on holiday or off sick. I've now lost count of the agencies I have employed and subsequently sacked due to inadequate/poor service. I have no confidence or trust in any of them anymore. At present I am in the process of complaining to the last care agency due to it's total incompetence. We have an NSPCA to regulate the care of children and even RSPCA to regulate the care of animals. Who cares for our elderly? I shudder at the thought of employing care agencies now!

Elaine Webb

I am a home carer and have been for over 2 years, watching your programme upset me, watching the standards of other companies just shocked me. We all have timetables for our visits everyday but never has that affected my standard of work. Home care should not be a job that you just do, it has to be a job that you enjoy and feel passionate about. Proof is that i found myself in tears whilst watching your programme. I have and will continue to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable people that i feel privileged to spend time with and care for in the later years of their life receive the respect and dignity that they deserve!

Zoe Hamer

I was one of the first community care agencies to be recognised when the domiciliary care act came into place. I can assure you that I picked up work from other agencies that hadn't visited their clients over bank holidays etc.. I wanted to stay small and local but the demand has become so great that it is impossible to keep track of everything. I worked seven days a week 24 hours a day and there is no backup. I eventually had to sell the business but have always worried about people running these privatised concerns without any previous experience. I don't know how things can be tightened up but there is a nightmare out there and I am pleased that you have highlighted it on your programme but this is just the tip of a very large problem. My concern is for the elderly and the disgusting way that they are being treated and conned. We as a nation should be ashamed of the way some of our older generation are being 'cared' for. It is a minefield for people looking for care and advice and I get very frustrated with the whole system. I am now looking to Dame Joan Bakewell to try and be a voice for the older generation and perhaps be able to make some improvements as they are really very urgently needed. Many thanks for a very good programme but please don't leave it there.

Ann Lawton

As a consultant Clinical Psychologist working in elderly care I found this Panorama programme very well made. What filled me with increasing anger and incredulity was not the poor care practice described, but the supposed ignorance of this lamitable state of affairs. While I would not expect an undercover reporter to be aware that this is the norm rather than the exception in home care of older people, the various professionals interviewed, the GP, CSCI, the Council contract managers and commissioners, and certainly Joan Bakewell should, and would, be well aware of this. There are very few places in this country, where you can work with frail elderly people and remain ignorant of the way in which cost pressures affect quality of care in just the ways the programme describes with depressing regularity, day in day out for hundreds of thousands of people in need! Dependent older people are not a sexy group to be lobbying for, but without massive amounts of extra funding (that would allow carers to actually stay for the contracted time and care companies to factor in travel times etc)these practices and problems will remain the same and the new Care Quality Commission will be as powerless to challenge the status quo as CSCI has proved to be. Well done, Joan Bakewell, for demanding action, but it will take more than sorting out a few rogue companies - and please, don't pretend to be surprised by Panorama's findings!

Reinhard Guss

I think care of the elderly should become a well paid profession with specialised training on how to care for elderly people, understanding dementia & other needs required in old age. In my view it should become a more prestigious career to want to do.

Diane Nottingham

I was so shocked, horrified and appauled at the way these poor elderly people were dealt with. I would love to go into the caring profession, but am unwilling to work for a private company because of the awful things I've heard. It is so difficult to get a job as a carer for the elderly with my local council and I think the government should do much more to employ people like myself who genuinely want to help these very vulnerable people who should be treated with care and respect at this time in their lives.

Angela McDade

Excellent programme. I live in Cardiff and my mother has experienced the same poor service, with missed calls, often erratic visit times and nowhere near the half hour scheduled per visit - due I think, to the firm taking on too much. We feel we cannot complain as it may affect the quality of her care. Besides, switching to another firm may not make any difference.

Keith Meek



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