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Moray's social care system faces 'perfect storm'

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THERE are only a few weeks to solve a social care crisis in Moray or the whole system could crumble, a Moray Integration Joint Board committee heard yesterday.

Members attending a meeting of the clinical and care governance committee on Thursday, October 28, heard that a mounting workload and lack of staff were causing additional stress for those working in the sector.

Combined with the issues caused by the pandemic, it has created a "perfect storm".

At the moment, 111 people who need home care are not receiving it because of a lack of carers. A further 148 are waiting to have their needs assessed.

Chief social work officer Jane Mackie said: "Demand has grown and things have built up.

"People are not being assessed on time and those who have been assessed we're not able to provide the service we want to give.

"When you want to get more out of less resources, something has got to give.

"Home care and home carers are the foundations of the service and if that shakes the whole system could crumble."

IJB chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram told the committee the problems in the sector were being experienced by local authorities across the country and were not unique to Moray.

He said: "Out of the crisis in provision we have an opportunity to reset.

"We have a few weeks – not months – to do this as the pressures are now, and we need to make it sustainable."

Moray Integration Joint Board chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram.
Moray Integration Joint Board chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram.
Vice-chairman of the Moray Integration Joint Board's clinical and care governance committee, Councillor Frank Brown. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Vice-chairman of the Moray Integration Joint Board's clinical and care governance committee, Councillor Frank Brown. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Members agreed measures including a more focused recruitment strategy, additional support for those working in home care and more structured management support for social workers.

Vice-chairman of the committee Councillor Frank Brown called the crisis in social care a "perfect storm" and raised concerns on withdrawing some aspects of the service.

He said: "I’m quite uncomfortable that we should limit the service to critical care only.

"We know if you put a gate on a service it will step up demand, and vulnerable people will be suffering physically and mentally.

"The home care service is the mainstay of our Home First policy, and if we can’t deliver home care for all the people who need it that drives a coach and horses through that."

A decision on whether to stop all non-essential work not associated with delivering or supporting front-line services will be taken at the next meeting of the full IJB.

Care at home workers Danielle Todd and Eugenia Lucas spoke at the meeting to give members an insight of the issues faced by those in the profession.

They highlighted a lack of staff, constantly changing rotas and the difficulties of working alone.

Ms Todd said that while certain medications would require two healthcare workers to administer them in a hospital, she had to do that on her own.

Since the start of the pandemic the number of hours provided for those needing personal and nursing care at home has gone up from 13,000 a week to 14,800 – an increase of 15 per cent.

While 35 new social care assistants were recruited between January and September this year, and eight others had their hours increased, 34 left and 25 staff had their work time reduced. This resulted in a loss of 386 working hours a week.

A drop in family members providing care is also impacting the service, as has an increase in the number of people with complex care needs and those spending their last six months of life at home instead of being in hospital.

An actions report and any financial implications of introducing the recommendations will go to the next meeting of the IJB.

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