Councils still commissioning ‘undignified’ 15-minute care visits against government advice

4 April 2016

  • More than 18 councils still using 15-minute care visits for personal care.
  • Flying visits continue despite Care Act guidance advising against them.
  • 6,000 fewer people received care at home compared to last year.
  • Encouragingly, 46 councils have changed their policy on 15-minute care visits since 2013.

Thousands of disabled and elderly people in England are still facing undignified and unsafe care in 15-minute slots, despite official guidance against these ‘flying’ visits, a leading disability charity has found.

Leonard Cheshire Disability sent Freedom of Information requests to all local authorities responsible for adult social care and found a majority of councils commissioning 15-minute care visits (64 out of 105) said they do not use them to provide personal care.

But worryingly, 18 councils are using 15-minute care visits to carry out essential tasks such as washing, dressing and eating. Additionally, more than 23 councils did not respond to a question on personal care when asked for clarification.

Short visits continue despite statutory Care Act guidance which states that ‘short home-care visits of 15-minutes or less are not appropriate for people who need support with intimate care needs.’ The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) also advises that carers must spend a minimum of 30 minutes during visits to help keep people well.

Leonard Cheshire Disability believes flying 15-minute personal care visits are simply not long enough to provide the right care and support to disabled and older people, leaving many facing impossible choices such as using the toilet or having a cup of tea.

The charity’s research also showed that councils are commissioning more homecare — but are doing so for fewer people. Between 2013–14 and 2014–15 the number of hours commissioned increased by 3% while over 6,000 fewer people (a fall of 2%) received homecare commissioned by their local authority.

Leonard Cheshire Disability has campaigned to end flying care visits through its Make Care Fair campaign since 2013. The charity wants to congratulate a number of councils for their efforts in ending 15-minute personal care visits. Out of the 152 councils surveyed, 16 councils have changed their policy in the last year and no longer commission 15-minute visits for personal care. This brings the total number of councils that have changed their policy since the start of Make Care Fair to 46, representing nearly a third of all councils in England.

Leonard Cheshire Disability chief executive Clare Pelham comments on the use of 15-minute care visits:

‘We are concerned that many councils are still commissioning flying care visits — often 15 minutes or even less — to deliver essential personal care such as washing, dressing and eating.

‘These rushed visits are simply not long enough to provide dignified support to disabled and older people, leaving many facing impossible choices such as using the toilet or having a cup of tea.

‘We urge councils to follow government guidance which clearly says that 15 minutes is never enough for personal care.

‘After more than three years campaigning on this issue, we know there is still a long way to go before everyone receives the kind of care we all expect for those we love.’

Notes to editor

For interviews and media enquires, email Afsheen Latif or call 020 3242 0389/07903 949 388.

Data notes

  • This research is based on complete or partial responses from 152 local authorities commissioning social care in England as at 1 February 2016.
  • Social care is commissioned by 152 top-tier councils — county councils, unitary authorities and metropolitan and London boroughs.
  • An FOI request was sent to councils in August 2015. It follows two previous requests sent by the Leonard Cheshire Disability to local authorities commissioning social care in 2013 and 2014.

Care Act statutory guidance

Market shaping and commissioning of adult care and support

4.100. Local authorities should ensure that where they arrange services, the assessed needs of a person with eligible care and support needs is translated into effective, appropriate commissioned services that are adequately resourced and meet the wellbeing principle of the Act. For example, short home-care visits of 15 minutes or less are not appropriate for people who need support with intimate care needs, though such visits may be appropriate for checking someone has returned home safely from visiting a day centre, or whether medication has been taken (but not the administration of medicine) or where they are requested as a matter of personal choice.

NICE guidance

Most home care visits should be at least half an hour – March 2015

About Leonard Cheshire Disability

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. With over 7,500 staff, the charity supports over 7,000 disabled people in the UK.

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