A GOVERNMENT taskforce has been urged to look into the support pensioners receive at home amid concern they are receiving "care on the cheap".

The call to examine how much time and money are spent helping frail, elderly people cope on a daily basis has been made by the head of Scottish Care.

The body represents care firms and charities, and its chief executive Ranald Mair is expected to warn delegates at a conference tomorrow: "Older people in Scotland deserve the best care we can offer; not the least we can get away with or care on the cheap."

Loading article content

The organisation is also demanding the abolition of 15-minute care visits, which it says deprive people of their dignity and put unfair pressure on staff.

Health Secretary Alex Neil is attending the conference in Glasgow, which is organised by Scottish Care for home care and supported housing services.

Mr Mair will also say in his speech: "We need to move away from 15-minute visits and we need to reward staff accordingly for the important work they do, otherwise we won't be able to recruit the staff we want to look after Scotland's older or vulnerable people."

The number of pensioners over the age of 75 living in Scotland is projected to rise 86 per cent during the next 25 years. Looking after people better in ­communities to reduce the number of emergency hospital admissions is the Scottish Government's key plan to ensure the NHS will cope.

The Herald's NHS time for Action campaign is calling for a review of capacity in both hospitals and social care services and a clear plan demonstrating the resources required to make the strategy work.

Mr Mair said: "Correctly, public concern focuses on any failures of care, and the care sector has to work hard to maintain public confidence. At the same time, providers remain concerned constraints on public funding are making investment in the workforce and quality of care hard to sustain."

Last year, research by trade union Unison showed that all but three local authorities sanctioned home care visits of as little as 15 minutes, while many had contracts with care providers that failed to guarantee hours for staff.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Mair placed the blame for this with ­councils that commission providers, saying they set time limits, contracted visits in quick succession and penalised services if their staff arrived late.

He said: "We have had some situations where providers have ended up giving some contracts back to the council, saying 'we cannot deliver on the terms you have set'."

He also said it was difficult to recruit staff in some areas and councils paid providers so little per hour that they in turn struggled to pay staff much more than the minimum wage.

The Scottish Government recently published the findings of an expert taskforce looking at care home provision, which warned funding has failed to keep up with the rapidly ageing population.

Mr Mair is calling for a similar group to examine the issues facing home care.

A spokesman for Cosla, the umbrella group for ­councils, said: "We work very closely with Scottish Care and other provider organisations and are open to discussion on the issues raised. Whether or not we need another taskforce, well, I think we remain to be convinced that this is the way to go."

A government spokeswoman said: "The Health Secretary is absolutely clear that older people in Scotland deserve the best possible care, whether in a care home or in the community. This government wants to ensure that all older people receive quality and compassionate care that protects their dignity."