Controversial home care firm urged to improve support for elderly and disabled people in Leeds

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A home care firm at the centre of the largest ever legal claim against the care sector has been told to improve the way it supports elderly people in Leeds.

Sevacare was awarded a £121,000 six-month contract to provide community respite services in Leeds south in July and is also listed on Leeds City Council’s home care framework, meaning its staff can be used if primary providers are unavailable.

An inspection report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has revealed that Sevacare Leeds’ management of medicines was “not robust” and there were gaps in records on whether people had been issued prescribed medicines.

Inspectors also found some areas of risk for patients were not assessed and the firm had no registered manager at the time of the inspection. It was rated ‘requires improvement’ by the regulator.

Earlier this week it emerged that 17 care workers in Haringey, London, who claim they were paid as little as £3.27 per hour between 2010 and 2016, are taking legal action against organisations including Sevacare.

The contractor has insisted that it pays its workers an average hourly rate that exceeds the minimum wage. There is no suggestion that its Leeds workers have been paid below minimum wage.

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said it is working with Sevacare Leeds, which is based in Horsforth, to tackle the issues highlighted and has discussed putting in place “improvement action plans” at the company.

She said: “We will continue to monitor the organisation closely and work with them to ensure the necessary improvements are implemented and maintained.”

At the time of the June inspection, Sevacare Leeds was providing support to 71 vulnerable people. It began running services formerly delivered by Czajka Community Care Services in Leeds in August 2015 and the firm says it has made “significant improvements to the service” since.

A spokesman for Sevacare said: “We have drawn up a detailed action plan and are working closely with the CQC and the local authority to further transform this service.”

The CQC’s findings come as Sevacare faces up to criticism in the legal case launched by London workers backed by Unison.

The staff are employed on zero-hours contracts and care for elderly and disabled people across Haringey, visiting people in their own homes or providing 24-hour live-in care.

The case against care companies which took over a contract from Sevacare, centres on unpaid time spent travelling between people’s houses.

Unison said on a typical day staff might be working away from home for 14 hours, but could receive payment for only half of them, leaving them earning as little as £3.85 an hour. Care workers who provide live-in care can earn even less, getting as little as £3.27 an hour, under half the legal minimum, said Unison.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: “More money must be put into care so that councils are not forced to tender contracts at a price they know decent care cannot be delivered.

“No wonder 15-minute care visits are now the norm, and there’s widespread payment of illegal wages.”

Sevacare, which no longer has a contract with Haringey, insisted it paid over the minimum wage and disputed that women had worked 24 hours a day.

Workers were paid for an average of 10 hours day, equivalent to an hourly rate of £7.85, said the company, adding that its rates were at least in line with the national minimum wage.