County blamed for home-care crisis

PUBLISHED: 19:22 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:22 06 May 2010

THE BLAME for a catalogue of problems with home care in the district lies with Herts County Council (HCC) and not the new provider, according to a local councillor. When Supporta Care took over from three different companies in St Albans in April, it emer

THE BLAME for a catalogue of problems with home care in the district lies with Herts County Council (HCC) and not the new provider, according to a local councillor.

When Supporta Care took over from three different companies in St Albans in April, it emerged that a large number of elderly and vulnerable people were going without vital care at the weekends.

Making clear their disappointment with the situation, HCC suspended the contract which left any new work having to be allocated to different providers.

Lib-Dem leader and county councillor Chris White claimed HCC were responsible for the Supporta Care contract failing because they had not adequately monitored the previous care providers and the contract changes.

Accusing HCC of being "wickedly negligent", he said the company inherited the problem of a huge number of incomplete files on individual members of staff from the previous providers.

Cllr White also said he was sickened by HCC blaming the provider, especially as another contract with a different company in East Herts was suspended at the same time for similar reasons.

He added: "You have a common factor and that's the county council."

Cllr Nick Holllinghurst, who has reported HCC to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), said: "The collapse of these contracts left many people at risk. The situation left me no choice but to contract the inspectors about this incredible mess. Having spoken with them I am assured that they have a hold of the situation but we will be monitoring this closely."

Cllr Sally Newton, Executive Member for Adult Care and Health, said the council had immediately reported the problems to the CSCI, which recently rated the authority as "excellent", and was working closely with them.

She said it was common knowledge that staffing problems in Supporta Care's management were the reason for the poor service.

She added that the nine-month retendering process was completed in line with national guidelines: "We have this tendering process which is very challenging and very robust, and the basis is about 60 per cent on quality and about 40 per cent on cost. These are national agencies which have also been inspected by the national audit office. We got references which seemed to show they could do what we wanted. And having gone through everything we possibly could, we chose these providers in good faith."

In response to Cllr White's allegations of negligence, a spokesperson for Adult Care Services at HCC, said: "We are not in a position to substantiate the claims being made. Our focus at the moment is to ensure that vulnerable people are getting the appropriate care.

"Once we are satisfied that the problems with the contract have been resolved, we can concentrate on finding out exactly why the provider experienced difficulties in fulfilling its obligations.

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