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OCCUPATIONAL therapist vacancies are continuing to cause concern for a Carmarthenshire scrutiny committee.

The council is expected to overspend on social care by £760,000 in 2018-19 – although this was the position at the end of February – while underspending on occupational therapists by £95,000.

Councillors on the committee have asked for a report about how occupational therapists, who help people get back on their feet and live independently, are recruited by the authority.

Cllr Deryk Cundy

Councillor Deryk Cundy described them as a key link between social care and hospitals.

“If we don’t get this right, we’ve got a major problem,” he said.

Councillor Louvain Roberts said she had heard that occupational therapists were moving to work for Swansea Bay University Health Board because it paid more.

Executive board member for social care and health, Councillor Jane Tremlett, said she would report back with a position statement on vacancies.

Referring to occupational therapists, she said: “For me they’re critical – the ones you really need.”

She said the authority recruited graduate social workers straight from university, ensuring they had a mentor for the first year and a “manageable workload”.

A council officer said the staff underspend, including a small number of social worker vacancies, did not necessarily imply a worsening situation.

Councillor Dorian Williams said it was “sad” to keep discussing vacancies, and added: “All we want to do is to ensure the health of our elderly community, and I think we need to stop thinking in the short term.”

While the predicted social care overspend has dropped since last December, the predicted occupational therapist underspend has gone up.

Another budget challenge is what the report before the social care and health scrutiny committee described as a “significant increase” in demand for domiciliary care, which had only been partly offset by a decrease in residential care placements.

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