THE welfare of hundreds of vulnerable people is being compromised by East Renfrewshire Council’s “chaotic” housing support service, inspectors have said.

Watchdogs slammed the service in a damning report, giving it the lowest possible grading of ‘unsatisfactory’ for its quality of care and support and quality of management and leadership.

It represents a dramatic decline in the standard of service, which was graded as ‘very good’ for its care and management just two years ago. It was also noted the service had made ‘no improvements,’ despite being given several recommendations by the watchdog a year ago.

The Care Inspectorate also described the quality of staffing as ‘weak’ and said service users were being let down by ‘systematic failures.’

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The council’s Care at Home service supports around 500 people in their own homes, such as those living with long-term health conditions, dementia or a physical or learning disability.

Inspectors described carers as being ‘clearly committed to providing the best possible care’ but highlighted a string of problems, including a lack of care plans, support workers being constantly changed, poor communication systems between service users and management and a lack of information on users’ medication needs.

Just one care plan was found during the 47 visits inspectors made to people receiving care from the service.

The impact of this was laid bare by one service user, who said they were ‘dissatisfied’ with the care they had received because support workers did not care for their needs ‘consistently.’

The report states: “Care plans should be developed in collaboration with service users and their families to outline how the service will endeavour to meet the health, welfare and safety needs of the service user.

“The absence of care planning means service users’ needs are not being met in a managed and consistent manner and service users are needing to inform support workers on a daily basis what their needs are and how best to support them.”

The report went on to say how the lack of review of care plans, which should be done at least every six months, was having a ‘detrimental’ effect on service users, with some describing the ‘endless stress’ it has brought them.

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Inspectors also discovered that, as a result of poor care planning, there were a number of issues with medication practices.

“There is a lack of information of the service users’ medication needs and the level of support that is required,” the report added.

“We found some people were not being supported with their medication needs in a manner that complies with prescription guidelines and therefore will lead to poor health outcomes.

“There is a complete lack of information in people’s homes in relation to support required with the administration of topical creams, ointments and pain patches.

“It was unclear what level of medication support was in place, which has in part led to unsatisfactory outcomes for some people using the service, as staff are left to determine the level of service delivery required.”

The Care Inspectorate also slammed the lack of information vulnerable people received about which support workers they would be seeing and when they would be arriving. This led some service users to feel as if ‘a stranger’ was visiting them, with some finding it ‘upsetting’ that they had to go over their care needs again and again with a new person.

Inspectors noted how visit times ‘fluctuated’ and were sometimes not sufficient for people’s needs, outlining how they observed one woman with dementia receiving a five-minute visit.

The report states: “Service users shared their experiences of ‘strangers’ coming into their homes and the impact this has on their sense of safety in their own homes.

"People told us this can be very difficult, given the personal nature of the care given, and therefore view continuity as essential to develop trusting relationships.”

Inspectors added in their conclusion: “The welfare of those using the service was compromised due to the lack of assessment, care planning, reviewing and consultation with service users and their families. We expressed deep concern at the lack of progress made in relation to previous requirements.

“The service needs to work with the senior management team of the Health and Social Care Partnership to address these issues in order to raise the quality of the service.”

Council admits failings and promises to recruit staff

East Renfrewshire Council has apologised for failures in its Care at Home service – and vowed to make immediate improvements.

A spokesperson for the local Health and Social Care Partnership said: “It is a matter of deep regret the Care at Home service is not delivering at the level we expect or require and we apologise to any services users whose care has been affected by this.

“Management and frontline staff have been trying to make sure that, despite increasing service pressures, we continue to deliver vital care and support.

“We have taken immediate action to rectify issues identified by the Care Inspectorate, including recruiting extra care staff to provide service users with familiar carers; providing more support to ensure service users are getting the right help; and creating a development plan for staff training.

“A senior management improvement task force has been established to ensure strategic and practical improvements and staff sessions have been arranged for frontline workers to express their opinions and concerns.

“Our residents’ wellbeing is our main priority and we are doing everything we can to improve the service. We will work with the Care Inspectorate, our staff and service users to ensure we offer an improved service.”

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