Harrogate facing home care crisis after second provider pulls out of contract

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Fears have been raised that the county council’s home care system is facing crisis after the second of three Harrogate providers pulled out of their contract.

Harrogate-based Continued Care, The Mears Group and Castle Rock Group (CRG) were awarded North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) domiciliary care contract early in 2015.

Until these contracts were put up for renewal more than 20 domiciliary care companies had council contracts to provide care for elderly people at home across the district.

In February this year, The Mears Group announced they were ending their Harrogate contract with just 24 people signed up to the service.

The county council has now confirmed that they have agreed with CRG to end its involvement, blaming changing market conditions for the change.

John Kneller, owner of St Margaret’s Home Care which lost its contract with NYCC in 2015, said it came as no surprise that the new system was failing.

He said: “When this tender process came in, the county council were told that it would not work because it hasn’t worked in most other areas where they’ve tried it.

“This is the worst county to introduce it in because it is too rural but they didn’t see it that way. They have wasted so much time and money with this.

“The problem is these agencies can’t get or keep staff because they are not getting paid enough money in their contracts. It’s as predictable as night following day.”

Care companies initially raised concerns about the shake up of the home care system, with the county council awarding the contract to just three agencies.

Like Mears Group, CRG was a new provider to the area that joined the county council’s framework contract when it was set up in early 2015.

NYCC said that this framework contract would enable them to work with a smaller number of providers to enhance quality and raise standards of domiciliary care service.

However, despite the county council working closely with CRG over several months, fears persisted that its provision was falling short of their agreed care plan in the area.

Coun Clare Wood, executive member for Adult Social Care and Health Integration, said it was taking longer than acceptable for CRG to make changes necessary to establish itself in the area.

She said: “This is fundamentally important work and our contracts are exacting in terms of the quality and consistency of care provided.

“We have worked closely to support CRG and we understand the difficulties faced by a new provider coming into an area, but to ensure we maintain the required standard, both we and CRG have decided it is time to end CRG’s involvement in the contract.”

Continued Care will continue with their contract and will take up responsibility for CRG’s additional clients, as well as taking on its staff.

Director Samantha Harrison said: “Our priority is always our clients, so we will focus on ensuring all our new clients are getting the care and support they need.”

Coun Wood said NYCC are now taking steps to address the challenges facing the care market nationally, including an ageing population, increased demand for care and recruiting and retaining staff.

However, Mr Kneller warned that, due to increased budget constraints, NYCC and other authorities around the country were facing a home care crisis.

He said: “This won’t have been what they wanted when they started this but they were told at the time it wasn’t going to work. It’s a mess.

“There’s nothing they can do now because they haven’t got the finances to do it. I don’t really know what’s going to happen now though.

“It’s a dire situation, it’s like a stack of cards waiting to collapse.”