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People aren’t getting help quick enough, says head of social services

SOME people who need help with basic things like washing and dressing aren’t getting it quickly enough, Swansea’s head of social services has said.

Dave Howes said access to and the availability of domiciliary care, which helps mainly elderly people live independently at home, were of “particular concern” to him.

In his annual report for 2018-19, Mr Howes said domiciliary care capacity was a national issue which would not be solved until social care was treated on a par with health.

His report said: “It isn’t good enough for us to park our local capacity issue in the ‘too hard to deal with’ box whilst waiting for national solutions.”

Mr Howes said Swansea Council had remodelled its in-house domiciliary care team.

It is also changing the way it commissions external domiciliary care providers to help ensure that people in rural areas, for example, didn’t get a worse service than people in urban areas, which are easier for care staff to get to.

The council currently spends £9.4m per year on 13 private domiciliary care providers in Swansea, which help 1,200 mostly elderly people.

In March this year councillors heard that around 120 people in Swansea were waiting for domiciliary care.

Dave Howes’ report was discussed at a meeting of the full council on Thursday (Jul 26). One case study mentioned was about an 83-year-old woman in Swansea who looks after her severely disabled husband.

She said she was “at a point of sheer desperation” when she phoned her local area coordinator.

The woman said: “She (the local area coordinator) has been a ray of sunshine in my life, sorting out a smoke alarm, talking to me about what’s available, taking me to the carers’ centre, introducing me to clubs I had previously been a member of and, most importantly, facilitating a sitter for my husband for me to go to the hairdressers and old age club once a week.

“Without her intervention I really don’t know what I would have done as I was absolutely exhausted and depressed.

“Had I not met her I honestly believe that such was my exhaustion I would probably have ended up in hospital and my husband in a care home – a situation I pray every night won’t happen as we have been married for 63 years and never been apart.”

Mr Howes’ said: “We have to face up to the fact that some individuals who require social care support do not receive it in a sufficiently timely fashion.

“This will be an area of particular personal focus in the coming year.”

He added that the number of delayed hospital discharges had risen, mainly due to domiciliary care capacity issues.

Mr Howes said he had been “blown away” by the quality, resilience, and “downright hard work” of social services staff.

The department’s two key areas are adult services and child and family services.

Adult services received just under 24,000 calls for help and support in 2018-19, equating to just under 100 per working day.

Just over half of these calls were categorised as referrals and a total of 12,400 social care assessments were carried out – a 1,314 rise from the previous year.

Council chiefs have taken unpopular decisions to charge for day services and close other facilities, like Parkway care home in Sketty Park, in order to focus on people with complex needs and to expand preventative work.

Swansea now has 13 local area coordinators who support mainly elderly people to help them keep active and independent.

A team has also been set up to reduce a backlog of cases involving people who were not able to consent to their care arrangements in a care home or hospital.

Mr Howes’ report also said the number of looked-after children in Swansea had risen by 51 to 554 in 2018-19 although there were “signs of a decreasing trend” in the number of children living away from Swansea and in institutionalised settings.

The number of youngsters on the child protection register dropped by 14 to 240 but Mr Howes was worried about the number of times children were put back on the register.

Meanwhile, the number of families being supported also declined – from 2,085 in 2017-18 to 1,841.

Welsh Government care inspectors assessed children’s services in Swansea last July and found good practice overall, with children themselves generally positive about the support they received.

Mr Howes said performance across child and family services was “consistently high”.

One of the highlights was the work of the intensive family support service, which identifies families at the risk of breakdown due to substance misuse.

Another support service helped arrange 74 visits from different teams for a young mother living a “chaotic lifestyle”.

Looking ahead Mr Howes is keen to improve access to mental health and wellbeing services for young people.

Social services in Swansea overspent by £3.5m in 2018-19 despite making savings, partly by freezing vacancies.

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