Care firm defends service as staff raise several concerns

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Bloomsbury Home Care has defended the service it provides to the elderly and disabled in Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings after staff raised a number of concerns.

The firm, which looks after around 250 people in their own homes, was criticised in a recent Care Quality Commission report which said it ‘required improvement’ to make the service effective, caring, responsive and well led.

After that report was covered in the Mercury, a number of staff members and service users got in touch with us to raise concerns over staff being underpaid, having to rush appointments and a lack of sickness cover. Allegations were also made about a lack of vetting of staff, and training.

The company have denied all the allegations.

One carer, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed she was regularly not paid the full amount she was entitled to because the electronic system used to check in and out at clients’ homes is unreliable.

She said: “We each have a work mobile which has an app on it and when we arrive at a client’s home we scan a barcode. We do the same thing when we leave and the data is supposed to get sent to a central database. That data is used by payroll to work out our pay.

“But it doesn’t seem to register all of the work we do properly. We regularly don’t get paid in full. Sometimes you might miss out by £30, sometimes it might be £200.

“If I try and argue it, the company says the system can’t be wrong - but we also fill in paper records at every home we go to. The system thinks I have been missing jobs, and so I have not been paid. But if I had missed people out, wouldn’t they or their relatives phone up Bloomsbury and ask to know what is going on?

“A lot of carers have been struggling financially because of this. If it wasn’t for the clients, who I have great relationships with, I wouldn’t bother carrying on.”

Another carer said staff do their very best in difficult circumstances, but added that they often feel rushed.

She said: “Sometimes you’ll turn up at someone’s home and they’ll need medical attention. I might need to call an ambulance or ring NHS Direct. I have to stay until that is sorted, but I won’t usually get paid for that extra time.

“I only stay because of the clients. We have such a good bond. We work so hard, but get no respect. I think we need more staff.

“We can very rarely get sick cover. If you phone in ill, the company will try and use emotional blackmail and say you are letting vulnerable people down. They want you to drag yourself to work.”

Robert Sturch, Bloomsbury Home Care’s operations director and registered manager for Lincolnshire, said all staff are thoroughly vetted – including enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks – and go through a four-day induction. There is ongoing training and the opportunity to study for NVQs.

He said the automated phone system to check in and out of calls provided many benefits – including alerting team leaders if appointments have not been made, checking staff are safe, and collecting data for the county council to show how punctual the service is and how long carers stay with their clients.

Mr Sturch added: “Should staff need to stay longer than the planned time for any reason we are entitled to pay that and bill the council. We have done this on numerous occasions over the past year.

“We try always to permanently allocate our calls so that staff and service users know who is visiting whom. Of course we regularly have to find cover for short-term sickness and other emergencies. Our small team structure is designed to cope with this because the local team leaders can ask other support assistants to cover extra calls, provide the cover themselves, or ask a local team to provide cover. Sometimes this does mean that calls will be happening at later times than the service user normally receives, and we try to communicate this beforehand to the service 
user.”

Mr Sturch said the amount of time carers spend with clients is monitored and “managers will act if appointments are being rushed”.

According to Mr Sturch, there are currently 102 staff working in the Stamford, Deeping and Bourne areas, and this “is sufficient for the amount of work we have – however we operate a constant recruitment and training programme to make sure we have staff to cover turnover and new work”.

He said the firm provides care to 255 service users.

The firm is contracted by Lincolnshire County Council to provide care. The council’s assistant director for adult care Pete Sidgwick said: “Providers are required to respond and investigate complaints about their services.

“We also investigate and take decisive action where necessary. Though we can’t comment on individual complaints, we are satisfied our home care providers are investigating complaints appropriately to ensure they are meeting the needs of the people they care for and their duties as an employer.”

l Bloomsbury Home Care rents office space at the Butterfield Centre in Bourne but is not connected to the centre which provides day care, meals on wheels and domestic services.