Councils struggle with care cash shortage

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Liverpool city centre. Photo: Ida Husøy

Care firms have cancelled contracts with 95 councils after it was found they were struggling to deliver the service needed on the money that was provided by the local authority.

According to the investigation by the BBC’s Panorama, care firms in the UK say they can no longer deliver services for the amount they are being paid. A quarter of the UK’s 2,500 home care providers were at risk after insolvency after 70 had closed down over the past three months.

Some companies which provide care for people living independently at home could no longer recruit or retain the staff they needed due to the funding crisis.

In Liverpool, care company Mears cancelled a contract with Liverpool City Council in July after saying that rates of £13.10 an hour were not enough to cover their costs.

This national shortage of carers is leaving many elderly people left in NHS wards, which results in bed blocking. Over the winter period, figures showed that the occupancy of Merseyside’s hospital beds had reached high-risk levels. The NHS was deemed ‘at crisis point’ after 85% of their beds had been used up, which meant limited space for emergencies and an increase in the risk of mistakes and infections.

Now, government figures show there are more than 6,500 people across Britain stuck in hospital beds without being discharged, despite being well enough to leave.

Problems such as delayed discharges have prompted the urge for more money allocated to social care as the system is currently under pressure.

In early March, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to spend an extra £2billion in social care over the next three years to help tackle this crisis.

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A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council, Paul Johnston, told JMU Journalism: “We have contracts with 23 home care companies and are working positively with them as they understand the challenges we face.”

The council increased home care rates to £13.10 an hour last year after consulting with providers. They say they are also supporting agencies to improve recruitment and retention of staff, which involves providing greater career progression and finding ways of reducing their overheads.

He added: “Staff home carers are the glue that bind communities together, supporting thousands of people to continue to live at home. We would love to be able to pay their employers more, but the central government funding we receive is simply inadequate, particularly as we have more people with complex needs living longer.”