PLAID Cymru’s administration on Carmarthenshire Council has hit back after the performance of its social services was fiercely criticised by Labour councillors.
Rob James, the leader of the opposition, cited a 2018-19 survey which found that only 47.5% of respondents agreed there was a good social care service available in their area, compared to a previous figure of 56.2%.
The finding is contained in a report which will go before the full council at a meeting on October 14.
The report also said the number of patients aged 75 and over kept waiting in hospital while waiting for social care had risen to 119 in 2019-20 compared to 81 the previous year, although figures for the months of February and March 2020 are excluded due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a press release, Cllr James quoted another set of discharge delay figures and claimed the majority of these were delays by the authority in arranging social care or care assessments.
The figures were, he said, “extremely concerning”.
He added: “We have an extremely challenging winter ahead with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and we need to be confident that there is a proper transfer of patients from hospitals into the community.
“It is vital that the issues surrounding ‘bed-blocking’ of elderly patients be addressed immediately, to ensure the well-being of local residents.”
Cllr James also claimed the Plaid Cymru-Independent had overseen a “significant increase” in the amount of money spent on private care homes.
Labour colleague and opposition spokesman for social care, Cllr Kevin Madge, said: “The over-reliance of this Plaid Cymru-led council to provide care privately does not offer good value for money and is clearly contributing to these awful statistics.”
Cllr Madge said he felt the council was “far too complacent” on the well-being of elderly residents, based, he said, on his experience of establishing meals on wheel service in the Amman Valley during the pandemic.
The administration called the attacks offensive and misleading.
Council leader Emlyn Dole said:
“For the Labour group leader to slam social care in the middle of a pandemic when the council and its staff have pulled out all the stops to support and care for elderly and vulnerable people, is quite frankly despicable.”
Cllr Dole said the figures quoted by Cllr James were “highly selective”, and called on him to apologise.
“His misguided attack may cause elderly people and others who depend on social care unnecessary anxiety,” he said.
“It’s also likely to have a negative impact on the morale of front-line staff who are performing heroically at what must be the most difficult time of their careers.”
Executive board member for social care and health, Cllr Jane Tremlett, accused Cllr James of attempting to make political capital out of the Covid crisis and said she didn’t recognise the other set of figures used by the Labour leader.
She said: “To accuse our team as complacent at this time is unforgivable when we consider the work and personal sacrifices they have made in protecting vulnerable people since the start of the pandemic.”
Plaid councillor Gareth John, who previously was a senior officer in health and care, returned fire at Cllr Madge.
He said: “Cllr Madge seems to forget that Plaid stopped the residential care home closure programme which happened on his watch as council leader.”
Cllr John said more care was being delivered now by in-house care staff than in the past.
“Far from extending the privatisation of social care, we’ve reversed the trend set by the previous Labour-led council,” said Cllr John.
The report before the council described the 47.5% score on good social care as disappointing, given that the council felt it provided a high-quality service and had the evidence to demonstrate it.
On the rise in hospital discharge waiting times, it said domiciliary care could be in short supply in more rural areas, and that delays also occurred when a patient’s house was no longer suitable for them.