Thousands of home care services in Wales are said to be facing desperate measures as a result of being financially unable to provide the services required by their patients.
Many providers say they simply cannot deliver the service on the local council budgets they receive.
An investigation led by the BBC’s current affairs programme, Week In Week Out, discovered that of 22 local authorities contacted, 13 of them have had their contracts handed back to them.
It was also been reported that one care company in Wales was forced to stop providing care to its carers in the Conwy council, saying it simply could not continue providing the care required with the money the council was providing them.
Care workers ‘struggling to cope’
Colin Angel from the UK Homecare Association explained that many of its members were struggling to cope:
“What we hear in Wales is a real sense of desperation from some providers trying to work out how they can remain in business on the sorts of rates that they are being paid by local councils,” he said.
“And I think in some parts of Wales, particularly rural areas, we may see care providers handing back work or going out of business even more quickly than in the rest of the country. And that’s something that I hope the Welsh Government is going to take seriously.”
One person who knows all too well the current struggle facing care workers in Wales is Amanda Hopewell. Currently a care worker herself, she earns only £7.55 ($12.43) an hour and is on a zero-hour contract, meaning her work hours are never on a permanent basis.
“I did look into buying a house about four years ago, but because I didn’t have a contract they wouldn’t allow me to buy a house or anything like that,” she said.
“It’s hard. You see all your friends out every weekend, going for supper with each other, and you’re like ‘No, I can’t come’.”
Last month, the UK Government announced it would be funding an extra £2bn into the social care sector, of which Wales would receive £200m.
However, the Welsh government has yet to decide how to use the extra funding.
Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans, explained the Welsh government were still working out the details, but some action has already been taken, including addressing recruitment problems, as well as the introduction of a registration scheme for home care workers.
“That will give the workforce the kind of kudos it deserves, because looking after our most vulnerable people – what more important job is there than that?” she said.
“And it will also give people going into that field of work the opportunity to think about career progression because we know that’s not there for people at the moment as well.”
She also said the Welsh government had invested in the sector to alter the terms and conditions for employees in the care business, including supplying extra money to local authorities in relation to the rise in the national living wage, which will occur in April.