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Personalisation & Profits

September 10, 2013

On the whole, I think we have been very lucky with the agency that has been commissioned to provide the majority of Steven’s care package. I get some direct payments to pay for Steven’s long-term support worker who has worked with him since he was 15, and we get direct payments to cover the two night shifts a month but the vast majority of the package is covered by an agency. The support workers are great and bend over backwards to do the right thing by Steven and me. They also do lots of stuff beyond the call of duty because they have decided amongst themselves that I need to “rest” when I’m not either looking after Steven or working. So, they do lots of housework and DIY jobs around the flat. They’re fabulous.

I have a great loyalty towards the individual staff – I don’t feel the same thing towards the agency – how can I? It’s an organisation, not a person.

After the awful ending of Steven’s time at Virgin Active, we’ve found him a new place to go to on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He’s been twice now and the signs look good. There’s an array of swimming pools, inside and outside and several spa pools. Right up his street.

I wanted to make sure that everything is in place to try and ensure he is safe there and that we won’t get the sort of problems we had with Mr Branson’s place. To that end, I wanted to make sure that the strongest support staff were with him and that meant swapping the people who do the Thursday and Friday shift. It should have been easy. However, the Thursday shift is an hour less than the Friday shift and the guy who I wanted to move from Friday to Thursday wasn’t happy about losing an hour’s pay. I don’t blame him – he gets paid a pittance. I honestly don’t know how he manages.

We tried to negotiate something with the agency but they were pretty steadfast – they didn’t have anything spare to accommodate paying the extra hour.

And that’s where I have a problem because it is that stark reminder that profits are the number one aim for an agency, no matter how good and supportive they might be. They get well over 60 hours a week in their contract and make over 100% profit for every hour they are commissioned. I’m not sure of the exact figures but I suspect their profit is about £500 every week. It irks me that out of that profit, they cannot find £8.75 to pay the support worker an extra hour. I remember discussing with one of the old support workers from the previous agency how inflexible they could be if it meant eating into their large profits. He said that they never learn and seem to prefer losing a contract rather than negotiating. Greed cost the agency the contract to supply the two night shifts a month. They were making a 200% profit on those and Hillingdon were prepared to stop the respite package as they were unwilling to pay those rates indefinitely. I negotiated a rate with the individual workers, which was much less than the agency rate but more than they were paying the staff, and the council accepted that. They lost the contract.

So, do I compromise Steven’s safety for £8.75 per week? No, of course not. I will pay the guy the extra hour myself. Nevertheless, a galling example of profits coming before personalisation again.


From → Social Care

  1. Meg permalink

    Unfortunately when it comes to it, it is all down to money. Social services say they don’t have it, private firms won’t part with it and charities are struggling too. Meanwhile the poor old client or ‘service user’ as we are told to refer to the people we support are caught in the crossfire with nowhere to run. I am glad for you and Steven that the guy who is supporting him can do it though at 8.75 he is on a fairly high rate for this kind of work. Many earn much less.
    When the crap hit the proverbial fan in the banking world and questions were raised about pay and bonuses I got sick of hearing how we have to pay through the nose to get the best people. I wondered why this is not applied in my line of work. After all, as far as I can see, any idiot, if they can click a mouse, can shuffle.electronic money around a virtual world, it takes ‘the best people’ to make a real connection with people who have learning disabilities. I hope the new venue works out for Steven.

  2. duncfmac permalink

    Meg I agree with all of the above.What really bothers me about care work generally is that as a society we deem the care of our most vulnerable, elderly, disabled, our loved ones, precious children and dear parents as a task that is payed barely above the minimum wage level. At the same time we pay tradesmen 3 or 4 times this per hour!!( I was just billed £42 per hour for an electrician ffs!) As a trainer of care workers I spend huge amounts of time trying to get my students to realise what a great and worthy job they do. I for one think they are so, so undervalued and underpaid by society. Mark’s story is so depressing and as a parent of a precious child with a disability I am fearful of the future. 25 years ago I started off my career as a carer and as an idealistic young man could see and feel the satisfaction and importance in the role. Sadly this has been completely eroded. Respect to Steven’s carers for the job they do-there are still some among us that value you even if your agencies don’t!

    • I’ve been reading on Twitter that there is a personalisation summit taking place today. I wonder how many service users, their families, or carers have been invited?

      • Meg permalink

        A what? I dread to think how many multiples of an average support package costing will be sitting round that table!

  3. sparrow permalink

    It’s all about money – whether it’s government/council cuts or agencies. My son has an annual review – his funding package needs to stay the way it is so he can continue to have what he needs – it’s an annual worry, especially with the cuts the government is imposing. Whatever happened to fairness?

  4. Emily permalink

    Did you ever contact Richard Branson direct regarding what happened? He is such a down to earth person I am sure he would be shocked if knew what happened and he may be able to offer assistance to Steven. Any thing is worth a try 🙂

    • Emily – I didn’t contact him. Even if he did intervene, the place has been soured now. Those dreadful women from the water aerobics group will still be there. And Steven seems to be really enjoying the new place. It’s just sad that the relationships he built at Virgin Active have all disappeared overnight. I’ve found thats been the story of his life though – when things end, they end abruptly.

    • Steven made a very good friend at the positive behaviour unit. He moved on a couple of months before Steven came home. I asked whether they could keep in contact and was told “no”

  5. CathyB permalink

    The owner of the agency I use was overheard talking to a client on the phone. The client wanted two particular carers, who he trusted, at times he knew they were free. After reluctantly agreeing to his demands the owner slammed the phone down and shouted, “I will not be dictated to by a client!”

    And these lovely, 110%, caring people who work for this agency get less than £7/hour. I could cry for them. I wish I was well enough to set up my own agency.

  6. Sally permalink

    We have had several care workers involved, and my son is only 10. Some have been great, some have been insipid-one just sat on our sofa looking bored as my son tried to show her his interests-and one was neglectful.He would hopefully see each as a friend and be crushed as they went off with minimal notice.
    The disabled children’s team/other agencies seem to give almost no training or supervision, in fact no input- while paying terrible wages and taking whoever shows up.So you can get lucky, but it is luck. I pay our current person over and above the Direct Payments. I do this, honestly, because I am afraid she will go away and we will be back to square one. I hate the assertion that agencies can magic up motivated trustworthy staff, happy to work with often very demanding people for less than they’d get at a burger joint.
    I know of some examples, but for the most part the argument is insane. Employers speak of attracting the top candidates. For £8.75?
    Mark, you have highlighted yet another example of a system being run on inadequate funds and relying on parents and dedicated staff accepting this because they care for the disabled..
    The nannies of many of the people in Mr Cameron’s cabinet, I happen to know, are very well paid have housing and travel perks, and are often given cars to transport the kids etc.
    Lets imagine it was suggested that the cabinet pay their nannies £8.75 and hour, no perks.. They would refuse, because their current staff wouldn’t accept such pitiful rates-and how could they trust their precious children to those who would?

    Well, exactly.

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