There are claims that some elderly people who should be receiving care at home in the strath are being left to fend for themselves because of staff shortages.
Protect Our Services Today (POST) says it has solid evidence that the service – provided solely by Highland Council in Badenoch and mainly by the local authority in Strathspey with a small provision by private contractor Independent Living Services – has been severely lacking.
Badenoch is short of three full time equivalent home carers alone and the council has been desperately trying to recruit locally.
Rev Helen Cook, POST spokeswoman, said: "Many of the people who find themselves in this situation don’t have relatives to speak up for them while others have relatives but they live a long way away from Badenoch and Strathspey.
"Basically they are on their own.
"Some of them have spent six months, and a year in hospital because there was no one to care for them at home.
"Also we heard from a very reliable source, and from individual clients, that allegedly one weekend two weeks ago, no home carers were at work in Kingussie.
"This meant no medication was supervised, no food was left for meals or cooked, no personal care was given.
"In addition we have heard from two professionals not connected to the council’s home care service who were asked for help by patients who had not been given their lunch when home carers had not turned up.
"Family members have also complained that home carers have failed to turn up for duty – and in all these cases no contact was made with client or family."
Rev Cook also claimed that carers were not given enough time to carry out their duties – stating that 15 minutes is allocated to give a client breakfast and medication.
"We also know that some have a sandwich left for their tea every night – something which we would all tire of quite quickly," she said.
"We hope advertising for new carers is successful and our older people get the care they need."
Fellow POST member Tom Wade, a former local councillor, said: "The whole home care set-up seems to be a bit of a shambles at the moment, sadly. This is a really serious situation and must not be allowed to go on any longer. The council needs to look at this properly.
"Social services should get their finger out and address the problems that exist in Badenoch and Strathspey."
Jo Fraser, another POST member, said the council’s care at home system had "broken down". It is more suited to towns, she claimed, and did not work in rural areas. Staff were unable to do their jobs properly, she said.
Badenoch and Strathspey Highland councillor Dave Fallows (SNP) admitted there has been major problems in the past but these latest claims were unfounded.
He said: "I cannot accept that there was ever a weekend where there was absolutely no cover in Kingussie or the rest of Badenoch."
He did admit there had been a couple of instances when staff had failed to turn up at clients' homes as expected. There had been an investigation and apologies issued, he said.
A Highland Council spokesman said they were doing all they could to address local problems.
He said: "Our social work service continues to seek to recruit care at home workers in order to be able to guarantee the delivery of services in Badenoch and Strathspey.
"This will allow us to sustain a level of service to vulnerable people with staff contracted to be available, which was often challenging in the past due to difficulties created because of a lack of a proper rota.
"The social work service cannot discuss individual cases due to confidentiality, but are happy to investigate any concern or complaint brought to the attention of our managers."
He stressed: "There has been continuing full cover in Kingussie, there is no-one delayed in hospital awaiting a care at home service, and the only people receiving a 15 minute call require only a simple task such as emptying a commode.
"The majority of people needing a morning service are assessed as requiring at least a 30 minute call and that is provided.
"The care at home service is a critical frontline service supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities. The staff and managers working in the service are dedicated and professional and deserve the support of all responsible members of our communities."
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