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Funding squeeze sees care contracts cancelled at 95 councils

Ninety-five councils have had home care contracts cancelled by private companies, an investigation has found.

BBC Panorama found that agencies were struggling to deliver the care required with the funding offered, forcing the companies to end their contracts.

It found that a quarter of the country's 2,500 home care providers were at risk of insolvency, and almost 70 had closed down in the last three months.

The agencies - which provide help for people living independently at home - also struggled to recruit and retain staff, Panorama reported.

One home care company - Cymorth Llaw in Bangor, Wales - was forced to hand back its contract with Conwy council because it felt unable to provide adequate care with the council's funding offer of £15 per hour.

Ken Hogg, co-director of the company, told the programme: "We didn't think we could do it for the money - it was as simple as that."

He said the company has always paid employees above the national minimum and living wage.

But with pension contributions, National Insurance and training - among other costs such as mileage and travel time - the amount the council were paying "doesn't leave a great deal".

BBC Panorama also found a similar issue at home care company Mears, who cancelled a contract with Liverpool City Council in July saying £13.10 per hour was not enough to cover the costs, and at least £15 an hour was needed.

Alan Long, executive director at Mears, told the programme: "That was a terrible thing to do for both service users and for care staff, we absolutely did not take that lightly, but frankly what choice did we have?

"We just cannot do the two most basic things that you need to do in home care - one, pay staff the absolutely minimum of a living wage and, two, be able to recruit people, enough people to deliver the service that Liverpool Council actually expected from us."

The Local Government Association warned in January that the number of people who had "unmet basic needs", such as getting washed, dressed or getting out of bed, could rise because of "continued underfunding" of social care.

It said those who got care could face shorter visits from carers.

Problems arranging social care in the community have also led to an all-time high level of delayed discharges in the NHS, with patients who are medically fit to leave hospital unable to do so.

There have been repeated calls for more money for social care, with charities, local councils and think tanks saying the gap in funding is between £1.3bn to £2bn.

In this month's Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £2 billion of extra funding for social care over the next three years, and said the system was "clearly under pressure".

:: BBC Panorama, Britain's Home-Care Crisis, will air on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Older and vulnerable people must get compassionate care, which is why we have provided councils with £9.25 billion of dedicated funding, including an extra £1 billion in 2017/18 to provide immediate relief.

"We will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure a more financially sustainable social care system.

"But, as the Prime Minister has made clear, this is not just about money and we will now work closely with NHS and local government to ensure that health and social care services are joined up. We particularly want to address variation in standards through targeted support for local areas that are struggling."

A separate analysis from the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) think tank and Mears, which provides social care, warned that the home care market is on the brink of collapse.

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