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Swansea Council is having to look after vulnerable people normally cared for by the private sector and is also outsourcing some of its own work.

Dave Howes, director of social services, said pressures on domiciliary care remained particularly acute because of staff shortages.

Councils have their own in-house domiciliary care teams and also commission independent care providers, whose staff enable people to remain at home.

Mr Howes told a council scrutiny panel: “We are continuing to experience significant numbers of individuals where providers are saying: ‘We just can’t fulfil the runs, we have not got enough staff to do the runs in this particular area, we need to the local authority to step back in and provide that care.’

“We had a really difficult period probably two months ago and then it settled down. We are just seeing a re-emergence of that in the last couple of weeks.”

Mr Howes said the council was managing to cover the private sector shortfall but only by allocating staff from its in-house re-ablement service, which in turn reduced its ability to help those who had come out of hospital and needed help before they could manage at home.

“So that’s a real pressure in the system,” said Mr Howes. “It ripples out everywhere.”

Mr Howes also said an external company has been contracted by the council to carry out assessments and reviews of people with needs – work normally done by council employees.

He said this measure should eliminate a backlog in this area by the end of the financial year.

Mr Howes said some social care and health teams might operate with only 40% of their workforce on a given day, mainly due to Covid and other absences.

He said demand for these services was high, particularly end-of-life care.

Mr Howes said the only spare capacity in the system was in care homes.

Swansea Bay University Health Board has acquired just over 50 care home beds to enable medically-fit patients who don’t have an onward package of care to leave their hospital bed and plans to acquire more.

But Mr Howes said around 20 of these beds won’t actually be available now because the care homes in question have said they haven’t got enough staff.

He also said pressure was building on the mental health service locally and that support for carers who looked after relatives and loved ones across Wales was “not as good as it needs to be”.

Mr Howes said everyone was hoping that other respiratory illnesses would not be a big factor this winter on top of Covid.

Cllr Mark Child, cabinet member for adult social care and community health services, said councils were having talks with the Welsh Government about social services budgets.

“At the moment it’s simply that we don’t have enough people (staff),” he said.

He and other councillors thanked carers and also family members for their efforts.

Cllr Mandy Evans said: “I can speak for myself – it’s quite heart-wrenching.”

She described carers as “special” and “committed” people.

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