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Fifteen-minute care calls criticised by Ombudsman as ‘rarely enough’

Councils need to ensure any care visits they arrange give enough time for care workers to do their job properly the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

The warning comes after Warrington Borough Council was found to have allocated 15-minute care calls to more than 300 people in the region, despite national guidance stressing these were ‘not usually appropriate’.

In one case, which led to the Ombudsman’s wider investigation, care workers had sometimes stayed for just three minutes, despite the family paying for the full visit.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“At the heart of this investigation are people, often vulnerable, who rely on care visits to give them the dignity and quality of life they rightly deserve.

“We are increasingly looking at complaints from a human rights perspective – and councils need to consider the rights of service users to have a private life when commissioning or delivering care.

“Councils also need to make sure that the care they arrange is sufficient to meet people’s needs. When looking at visits which may require care workers to dress, wash or feed a person, 15-minutes is rarely enough.”

In the case investigated by the Ombudsman, a family initially complained about the care workers from an agency commissioned by the council not staying for the allocated time when visiting a relative with dementia, and about inaccurate invoices provided to them. During the investigation into that complaint, the Ombudsman became concerned about the 15-minute care calls the relative was receiving.

The Ombudsman used its powers to widen an investigation when it appears other people may be affected by similar issues. This led to the Ombudsman finding 313 other people in Warrington had also been receiving these short calls.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to pay the family £500 for the distress it has been put through.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will investigate a 10 per cent sample of the people currently receiving 15-minute care calls to see if this is enough to meet their needs. Should this sample review identify anyone who should not be receiving such calls, the council will carry out a full review of all 313 cases.

Article date: 05 January 2023

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