Care at home sector is on “a cliff edge”

Councillors this week expressed their deep unhappiness over the current crisis unfolding in the social care sector, with the service being described by one as balancing “on a cliff edge”.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 8:35 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 8:35 am
An impassioned debate was held at the council on Tuesday over the problems in the care at home service

A general shortage of social care workers has been exacerbated by problems in relation to Covid, prompting Comhairle nan Eilean Siar last week to call for new care workers to come forward to assist the service. It also came with a stark warning that families were going to be required to do even more to look after loved ones that require care.

The issue came up at a meeting of the council’s communities and housing committee on Tuesday.

Councillor Angus Morrison, chair of the audit and scrutiny committee, said: “Care at home, in particular, is at a cliff edge. We are not able to recruit staff, we are not able to get individuals out of hospital, they are not able to get the care at home because we have no carers.”

Committee chair Kenny John MacLeod said that “over the past 18 months families have done a tremendous amount to support those in need and were if not for that it would be significantly worse”.

A report was presented to the committee which showed that there were currently 42 individuals waiting for a care at home package, with 20 awaiting a place in a care home.

Councillor Calum MacLean Broadbay said: “There is a real problem within our care system. We’ve been given assurances that we would look at things like apprentices but here we are years down the line and we are still seeing these appalling statistics."

A shortage of local staff has meant the council having to recruit agency staff from the mainland. “Why don’t we just make the job that much more attractive for people by improving conditions?” asked Councillor MacLean.

Councillor Charlie Nicolson, Stornoway South, said the report was “sad and upsetting”. “It’s putting our communities and families under major pressure,” he said.

While councillors were advised it may not be possible to increase wages for carers without including other public sector employees, the committee agreed to investigate options to improve career structures within the sector.