SERVICES providing care at home to elderly people lose one-third of their workers every year, according to new figures, while more than 40 per cent of those leaving the profession quit within the first 12 months.

Scottish Care, which speaks for care providers, said the introduction of the living wage and the way councils commission care was leaving many businesses unable to provide secure sustainable work for staff, leading to high turnover and damaging the service given to vulnerable clients.

Chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill said care was being bought by councils “by the minute,” and care providers had to take a leap of faith or pay their staff in the same way. He added: “This is no way to run a business and no way to support the most vulnerable people in society.”

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A report by Scottish Care warns that despite increasing public concern over councils and health and care integration boards commissioning home visits lasting as little as 15 minutes, more than a third of publicly funded care packages still demand visits lasting less than half an hour.

Because contracts are often short-term and do not guarantee levels of work, providers struggle to provide guarantees for their employees, he claimed.

The report says 85 per cent of organisations surveyed were using zero-hours contracts, with more than 56 per cent using these for more than three-quarters of their employees.

Dr Macaskill said the latest figures on staff turnover were much higher than previous estimates of 20-25 per cent turnover annually.

“This is a significant increase,” he said. “It is reflective of the fact that due to the nature of contracts, providers can’t offer job security to staff. It is therefore not surprising many go to opportunities in sustainable and secure employment in areas such as retail and hospitality.”

“This is hard, emotionally draining work. We should be paying people much better.”

The living wage for care staff has made it easier to retain staff, but put other pressures on firms, he said. “More and more companies are reducing zero-hours contracts but it is an act of faith.”

Scottish Care’s report Bringing Home Care also warns that fewer people are qualifying for free personal and nursing care, with some now receiving much less support or none at all. Councils are also criticised for deliberately delaying payments and assessments.

Dr Macaskill said this risked being costlier in the long term: “Delaying or denying someone’s access to care and support is counterproductive from a financial perspective, never mind the negative impact this has on an older person’s health and wellbeing. A lack of appropriate support is likely to lead to hospital admissions that may have been preventable”

Scottish Care, which is holding its annual care at home conference, is calling for a review and radical reform of home care services to address the fact that elderly people are being denied services they would previously have received, he said.

“Older people who would previously have received support at an earlier stage for tasks such as housework, shopping or cooking now receive either much less support or none at all.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We continue to work with our partners on the reform of social care and our presumption against 'time and task' based care.

Our view is simple, all service users should receive the care that they have been assessed as needing, and receive appropriate length visits to ensure this is delivered.

"15 minute visits are only appropriate in limited circumstances – for example to check that someone has taken their medication."