Magazine article Public Finance

A Friend in Deed?

Magazine article Public Finance

A Friend in Deed?

Article excerpt

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms told public-servants this week not to be afraid of the efficiency programme. Efficiency requires tough choices, he said, but it 'is the friend of public service'.

Maybe. But judging from a new report on home care for the elderly, sometimes it can involve a tough choice too far.

According to the Commission for Social Care Inspection, many home care workers operate in 15-minute slots. In that time they are often expected to dress and bathe elderly people before moving on to their next client. This, says the commission, 'can be undignified and unsafe'.

It does, of course, save money. And local authorities have proved adept at making savings in this area. The number of households receiving council-funded home care has fallen by almost a third since the 1990s, mainly due to far tighter eligibility criteria.

Under the Gershon efficiency programme, councils have also delivered £314m of savings in adult care services this year and are forecasting a further £213m for next.

Unison says this has had a 'devastating effect' on independent elderly people. Even Dame Denise Platt the commission's chair, admits that home care services are 'constrained, stressing that 'it is becoming clear that the service needs more resources'. …

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