Domestic care changes 'suitable for budgets', say bosses
Changes to the administration of domestic care by local councils are leaving carers performing a "juggling act", one carer claims.
As budgets become increasingly tighter, cash-strapped councils are looking to charge by-the-minute.
A report by the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) found some care agencies are being ordered by councils to carry out domestic visits in just 15 minutes.
BBC Inside Out South followed carer Elaine Stanfield during a typical day around Southampton to see how she handles having every minute of her working day monitored.
Mrs Stanfield, a carer for 26 years, currently has to clock in and out with an electronic system that registers when she starts and finishes a visit.
She said: "Sometimes it can be very difficult to fit clients in, within time restrictions.
"There's the travelling in between and a tracking system provided is supposed to find us the shortest route between clients, but that's not always the quickest.
"I don't know any other job where you get paid minute-to-minute."
'Dignity and safety'
Colin Angel, from the UKHCA, believes councils across the south are buying shorter and shorter visits.
He said: "Broadly, we estimate two-thirds of visits are 30 minutes or less.
"That's not enough time to deliver intimate, quite personal care to people and certainly it's quite difficult to do that with dignity and safety."
Mrs Stanfield, who works for care agency Agincare, added: "Some days you can do your run of clients and it goes very smoothly and easily.
"But, on others it only takes someone to have had a fall or to be unwell and it changes everything."
Hampshire Social Services say they are currently not paying by-the-minute, but do monitor visits to ensure people get the care that has been "commissioned".
They say shorter visits are becoming rarer and are committed to delivering safe and effective care.
A 15-minute visit now only accounts for one in every six calls and is often part of a larger care package.
'Time to chat'
Sarah Pickup, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), insists budgets have to be administered appropriately.
She said: "Not every council across the country is commissioning everything in 15-minute units.
"But, it is happening where we have got needs to be met and a limited budget. We have got to make our money stretch in the best way we can.
"I'm afraid the reality of the world is that the time for chat, is not time we've got to pay for.
"If we want to give people more time for social interaction, homecare agencies are not the way to do that."
But, Mrs Stanfield feels talking is a crucial part of the day job.
She said: "I wouldn't do my job if I didn't enjoy it.
"I enjoy caring, and always say to myself, care for people how you'd want to be cared for yourself."
See more on this story on BBC Inside Out South on Monday 7 January 19:30 GMT. Watch afterwards on BBC iPlayer.