15-minute visits are just one symptom of our broken care system

We need to address the funding crisis which has pushed so many homecare workers to the limit


The announcement this week that a Labour government would ‘end the scandal of 15 minute care slots’ in England is welcome news.

UNISON has long been calling for this through our Ethical Care Campaign. The current widespread use of 15 minute visits means that care users with increasingly serious and complex health needs are being provided with often undignified care, whilst homecare workers are trapped in a system where they are forced to provide rushed care before racing off to their next appointment.

This experience of a UNISON member clearly articulates the current shameful state of affairs

“On my run there are a number of fifteen minute visits. And on the run I have just been given one is to a man in his mid-nineties who is very frail and slow to move especially in the morning.

“I have been given fifteen minutes to go into his house, wake him up, assist him to the bathroom,  give him a shower, help him get him dry and dressed and then make his breakfast and prompt and make sure he takes his medication.

“My organiser has been told this takes around thirty to forty-five minutes. Her reply was that other workers can do it in this time.”

These 15 minute visits are an emblem for all that is wrong with our homecare system. But we must remember that an hour’s homecare visit could not be long enough for some individuals.

At present lots of people are increasingly being denied the level of care they need because our social care system is eye-wateringly underfunded.

There is the real risk of 15 minute visits being banned and it leading to far fewer people being afforded longer homecare visits. This at a time when more people are in need of homecare services and all politicians recognise that more care should be delivered in the home.

The issue of how much more money will be pumped into our broken social care system was not explained in this week’s announcement.

Extra funding commitments for the NHS are welcome but there is a need to recognise that demand on the NHS will continue to increase unless more money is given to social care, either via local councils or in the form of a truly integrated health and social care budget settlement.

Under the current system there has been no commitment to provide more money for councils who are responsible for the delivery of social care services, despite them having had billions of pounds collectively taken from their social care budgets and despite the contribution of this to the current A&E crisis situation.

UNISON will soon be releasing a collection of stories from homecare workers and the family members of homecare users about their experiences of our homecare system. Like the heartrending story above, they lay bare the human tragedies at the heart of our collapsed social care system.

Labour’s treasury team and indeed whatever politicians end up holding the nation’s purse strings following the May Election must heed these stories.

Simply banning 15-minute visits will not save our broken care system. Instead we need to address the funding crisis which helped spawn this endemic culture of rushed visits, if we are to have any hope of saving our broken care system.

Matthew Egan is assistant national officer at UNISON’s local government, police and justice section. Follow him on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.