Comhairle sweeps out domestic services

The Comhairle is ending help provided by carers to the elderly for domestic chores including shopping, housework, cleaning and ironing.

Islanders who have been in receipt of the domestic care provision will now have to make alternative arrangements in what is predicted to save the local authority £125,000.

The move was agreed by members of the Health and Social Care Committee and the Policy and Resources Committee in March - and was expected to impact on 98 services users throughout the islands.

The report before Councillors stated: “The undertaking of domestic tasks such as housework, washing and ironing does not meet the eligibility criteria for a care at home service.”

And this week a Comhairle spokesman confirmed: “All service users receiving domestic provision will, following review and 12 weeks notice, no longer receive the domestic service.” He added: “As the programme of reviews have progressed, the number of service users affected is likely to be below 60 and not 98 as detailed in the March report.”

However the Comhairle did not give the stipulated 12 weeks notice to eight service users, instead informing them it would end immediately.

Speaking about the blunder the council spokesman said that all eight were later contacted and six will continue to receive a domestic service for a 12 week period.

Asked if the council is aware of a private organisation capable of taking over the service he said: “There are a small number of individuals who do provide such a service privately and the Comhairle in each individual affected case would want to ensure benefit maximization so that Attendance Allowance can be used for this purpose.”

He continued: “In some areas charitable organisations also provide a service. However, in the main, service users employ people from their own locality to support them where family help is not available.”

The change comes amid what is being described as the “modernisation” of the Care at Home service.

The money saved by cutting the 159 hours of domestic help is set to go towards this and be “reinvested”, allowing for “additional care hours to be distributed to meet individuals’ care plan needs”.

It also follows on from a proposal to make savings by introducing microwave meals for the elderly. This saving would be generated by reducing care hours required for meal preparation.

Local MSP Alasdair Allan has been in touch with the Comhairle to clarify what the changes to domestic care provided by carers.

He said: “Obviously these are important services for some of the most vulnerable people in the islands and I hope that the Comhairle will be able to answer the questions that have been raised.”

However Vice-Chair of Health and Social Care Cllr Uisdean Robertson, insisted domestic help is not the main priority.

He said: “Domestic Service has not been part of new Care Packages for the past few years. Therefore, this change brings consistency and parity to the delivery of the Care at Home service.

“The Comhairle is committed to ensuring that Attendance Allowance take up is maximised so that individuals can purchase a domestic service when required.”

He added: “The Care at Home service’s main priority is the provision of personal care.”