Improved care service still has long way to go
A HOME help service contracted by the council is now rated as adequate by a social services watchdog just three months after a damning report condemned it as ""poor"".
A HOME help service contracted by the council is now rated as "adequate" by a social services watchdog just three months after a damning report condemned it as "poor".
But there are still serious problems - including one claim that a staff member was drinking with a client during working hours.
In October 2007 Carewatch, which provides care for elderly and people with disabilities, was rated as "poor" and given a highly critical report by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).
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The main criticism was that Carewatch was putting people at risk.
Among the criticisms reported was one incident in which a carer went away without informing her bosses, leaving her client without any care for a whole day.
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On another occasion, a worker did her own shopping while on a visit and returned to her client's house overloaded with goods she had bought for herself.
It was also identified that there was an issue with carers' reliability because some were not turning up to carry out their duties and when they did, their visits were short.
CSCI inspectors said that the agency's bad practice had resulted to a large extent from a high turn-over of staff due in part to poor pay - during 2007, 115 staff left out of a total of 173.
Carewatch managers have now taken steps to rectify these problems and in January they received an improved "adequate" rating from CSCI.
Incidents in which a client's safety had been compromised were said to have been dramatically reduced, and spot checks to ensure that carers were working as they should had increased.
Despite these improvements, however, the company still has some way to go in raising its standards.
The 2008 Inspector's report included a complaint made about a carer who was said to have been found sharing a vodka with a client.
CSCI spokesman said: "Significant progress had been made in many areas by Carewatch in Westminster since the previous inspection and all requirements have been met that were set at the last inspection held earlier this year.
"The report clearly identifies the improvements made by the service.
"The agency will be having another key inspection later this year where they will be able to demonstrate that they have maintained these improvements."
A council spokeswoman said that although it was not one of the main agencies used in Westminster, they had found that Carewatch had given a good quality and efficient service.
David Hogarth, chairman of Westminster Older People's Action, has campaigned vigorously for better care for the elderly.
He said: "Westminster is not just an average council and the home care must be of first class quality. So that means good timekeeping and high quality performance by all providers, not just Carewatch."
Carewatch was unable to comment as we went to press.