SWEEPING changes to the care sector have come under fire from one of the industry’s own workers.
A care worker got in touch with The News and claimed clients were being used as ‘pawns’.
It comes as Hampshire County Council is streamlining the number of care providers who support around 6,000 adults – most of them elderly – in their own homes.
The support includes helping people with personal care, meals and day-to-day living.
Across the county, there were 77 care providers, but this will be reduced to 11 from April.
The care worker, who wants to remain anonymous, was concerned that in the Havant and East Hampshire area all the work will go to just two agencies, Guinness Care & Support Ltd and Mears Care Ltd.
In Fareham and Gosport Mears Care Ltd and AQS Homecare have won the contracts from the county council.
The worker, who works for Somerset Care in Waterlooville, said: ‘They must be seriously under cutting – I don’t know what is going on.
‘I think they are using our clients like pawns.
‘I have one lady who is in distress over it.
‘The clients are worried sick about what is going to happen. Although we may be taken on by another company, we don’t know whether we will be looking after the same clients.
‘The people we look after are really frail old people.
‘We are being pushed further and further against the wall.’
But county leaders argue the reforms will improve terms and conditions for care workers.
The new contract is worth £585m over seven years.
The deal will save in the region of £2.9m for the next financial year, but officials have insisted the new regime is not focused on saving cash.
Councillor Liz Fairhurst, in charge of adult social care in Hampshire, said: ‘We’re all living longer but not necessarily in good health, which is why we are changing the way we purchase care for people who need support to live independently in their own homes.
‘We are using a smaller number of care providers so that together we can provide better quality care and improved terms and conditions for staff.
‘Our main priority throughout this change, is to ensure that people continue to receive quality care and support.
‘We have written to everyone who is currently receiving care to advise them of the change and who will be providing their care and support when new contracts start in April. We know that change can be unsettling, but we want to provide as much reassurance as we can to ensure everyone is comfortable with the new arrangements.
‘Each person will also be contacted by the new care provider before their care is transferred to discuss how this can best be achieved.
‘The new care agencies are committed to working closely with the existing providers to ensure that the handover is smooth and there is continuity of good care and support.’
In Hampshire the current population of over-75s is 116,000 and growing by around 1,000 each year.
This, coupled with the more complex care required by many, is adding £10m a year to the cost of providing care, said officials at the Winchester-based authority.
The council currently commissions around 100,000 homecare visits per week to support people at home.
Cllr Fairhurst, who also represents Bedhampton and Leigh Park, added: ‘I want to reassure people that the estimated savings are not coming from any reduction in the quality of care being delivered.
‘Indeed, the focus will be on further improving what is provided.’