A DESIRE for people to live at home for longer coupled with patients being discharged from hospital sooner is contributing to a recruitment strain in the care sector, a council boss has said.

Since December 2016, St Helens has operated an open framework for domiciliary care.

CQC registered domiciliary care providers who meet set criteria and have an office within St Helens or a bordering authority are then accepted on to the framework.

As of June 1, 2018, there were 37 providers on the framework, although only 21 of these were actively delivering packages, according to a council report on home care visits.

Nick Fletcher, the council’s service manager for procurement, contracts and quality monitoring, discussed the report this week at the authority’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny panel.

During the meeting, Windle ward councillor David Baines asked what the biggest challenges facing the domiciliary care sector were.

The Labour councillor said: “We’re all well aware of the cuts, and that’s not a political point that is a fact.

“We’re all aware of the cuts financially to these services.

“What challenges is that presenting? How’s it changing what we do?

“How are we going to make sure that the service users – who are our most vulnerable residents – receive the standard and quality of care that they should expect?”

Mr Fletcher replied by saying one of the “major concerns” is the availability of staffing against the volume of demand.

“It’s a volume industry,” he said. “There is a volume of demand coming through. That has increased.

“There is the desire for people to remain in their own homes for longer, which is maybe deflecting people away from care homes.

“There is the pressure put on from hospitals in terms of discharging people home earlier.

“So, people are probably coming home from hospital when they are not as well as they would have been maybe two or three years ago, therefore needing packages of care.”

Mr Fletcher said there is no “bottomless pit” of care workers to call upon to meet the extra demand.

He said: “Forgetting about whether you’ve got the funds to pay for it all, if the demand keeps growing, there’s not an endless supply of care workers.

“And that is a real challenge I think that we’re facing, and I think that’s across the whole of the health sector, to find people that work in care homes, to recruit nurses and other different things.”

He added that generally, care staff are paid minimum wage.

Rachel Cleal, assistant director for social care, said one of the biggest challenges around recruitment is due to the posts not being salaried.

She added: “What I’ve observed over the last 20-30 years is the complexity of the needs we’re asking that workforce to respond to and care for has increased because we are looking after people longer at home, and rightly so.”

The home care report also revealed that in 2017-2018, a total of 761 concerns were raised with 343 about domiciliary care.

Out of that figure, 224 were substantiated, 37 were part substantiated, 48 were unsubstantiated and 34 were inconclusive.

So far in 2018-2019, there has been a total of 244 concerns raised, with 114 about domiciliary care.

In total, 55 were substantiated, 13 were part substantiated, 15 were unsubstantiated, eight were inconclusive and 23 are still being investigated.

The report says that each domiciliary care provider will have a full quality monitoring visit every 24 months and be subject to progress visits to check progress against required actions from a previous visit and responsive visits to investigate specific concerns that have been raised.

Cllr Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care, said a lot of improvements have been made regarding the delivery of care since the delivery shifted to care providers.

She added: “I feel we’re doing an admirable job, all be it we need to improve, and we won’t rest on our performance.

“If it’s good, great, but it’s got to be better. So that’s the way we are looking at this service.”

However, the West Park councillor said a number of residents have expressed concerns over the age of some carers.

“St Helens, when we decided to go out to agencies it was as a result of the cuts that we knew was going to come and recruitment,” she said.

“A lot of people express concerns and have done to me about younger people delivering the services.

“Now I’ve got to say I find that alarming because whilst younger people may not have all the experience in the receiver’s opinion, we know that all the carers going out have being offered and have taken up the training that St Helens Council puts in line for these agencies.

“So, we know they have to meet a certain criteria. All be it you don’t know how an individual is going to react in a situation and we take that on board.”

Cllr Jeanette Banks, chairman of the health and adult social care overview and scrutiny panel, said data shows there is actually a lack of younger recruits entering the industry,

She said a Liverpool City Region Combined Authority report revealed that 58 per cent of staff working in the care sector in St Helens are aged between 40 to 64, while 39 per cent are under 40.

“We actually haven’t got a lot,” she said. “And that is disturbing to me that we haven’t actually got that recruitment, I feel.

“People are not going into this profession, which will be desperately needed.”