Home help changes slammed by client

A former social worker with 40 years experience working with the elderly has slammed Angus Council’s policy of changes to home help provision - with little warning to clients.

Miss Mary Pickstone contacted the Dispatch last Wednesday after receiving a letter from Angus Council’s Social Work and Health department, informing her that the home help she had had for the last ten years was to change - within days.

Miss Pickstone claims this is “just not good social work practice” and has urged other clients to speak out about the change of policy.

Whilst the home support service was initially free, monthly charges have slowly been introduced - starting at £96 for twice weekly visits a month.

This has gone up to £107 a month, with an additional charge for an emergency button which is now £8 a month.

Miss Pickstone has criticised the council for not taking into account the needs of the people who are presently served by home helps they have known years.

She said: “We now have to re-train somebody new, and allow them access to our homes without proper introduction. This is unfair to us and the workers.”

She spoke of the stress to the elderly brought about by the changes, adding: “We were not consulted at all about the changes.

“Such a shock is not good for elderly people. We should have been informed that this was going to happen, that would have been a humane way to carry out this decision. We should be properly introduced to a new worker. We do have feelings.

“If this decision is not to be rescinded then I have no alternative but to cancel the service provided for me, which I am reluctant to do as I do need help.

“So I shall have to make alternative arrangements, more stress the council committee is causing me! In any case I find the charges now being asked are far more than any elderly pensioners can afford. I am extremely angry about this move and the stress being caused to us by this decision.

“Perhaps the council can re-think these changes to the benefit of the elderly, who value the service of workers they have known for many years.”

Referring to the letter she received, which states the changes have been brought in “to maintain an efficient and effective service”, Miss Pickstone continued: “I am very concerned about this sudden change and the decision that has been made, without even informing us of any intended changes previous to this letter.

“Apparently all home helps are to be given new clients as from this week and we who have had the same person serving us for many years are expected just to go ahead and accept this change, inviting into our homes yet again someone we do not know or have not been introduced to. I ask is this right?”

She also takes issue with the council’s explanation that the changes were being made as a result of a review of the way in which the home support service is currently being provided.

She continued: “The letter states this has been done to ensure the assessed needs of everyone can be met. In actual fact, this action will make life much more difficult for many of us, and the care workers.

“The council committee has not taken into account the needs of the people who are presently served by a home help they have known for many years.

“It is not stated in this letter that this is a permanent arrangement, so any time hence things can be changed again!”

She concluded: “I want to keep the home help I have got. What’s the point in trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing.

“I am a retired social worker. I have worked with the elderly for over 40 years and this is not right. If I did that in my job, I would have been sacked. They have even changed the days in which I will have my home help, without even consulting me. They are not taking into account the feelings of the people they are serving. This is just an exercise to make things better for the service, not the people, nor for their workers. I am not going to sit down and take this. If the staff don’t want it, it the people don’t want it, what are they playing at? They are just not listening.”

At the time of going to press on Tuesday (yesterday), Miss Pickstone confirmed she had cancelled her home help service with Angus Council until her current home help is reinstated.

She explained: “I have told the council not to send anyone. If they decide to change their mind, then yes they can. If they don’t then no.”

A spokesperson for Angus Council said: “We do not discuss individual people or their circumstances. We recently sent out letters to people who receive our home support service explaining that we were making some changes on grounds of efficiency. This included moving staff from areas where there were surplus staff, to other locations where there were staff shortages.

“No service user has had their hours reduced because of this change, and we have worked with the few people who were unhappy with the new arrangement to resolve any issues they had.

“If service users cancel a service, either home support or community alarm, we always contact to arrange a visit to discuss their reasons for cancelling and offer assistance and advice.

“All potential service users are given a full financial assessment and are not asked to pay more than they are able to do”.