More home carers are being recruited as Fife Council attempts to meet the growing demand from an increasingly elderly population.
Around 70 staff should be recruited by the end of the month – but there is concern not enough young people are entering care services.
A review of the home care is also underway, looking at the way the Council works with the private sector and to identify any possible savings.
However, while other services are being asked to make cuts to help close the Council’s much-publicised £77m funding gap, Councillor Gavin Yates, executive spokesman for social care, insisted savings from this area would be re-invested.
Speaking at last week’s scrutiny meeting, Cllr Yates said: “I can’t see any scope for saving money from this budget without putting people at an intolerable risk.
“We want the best service we can get.
“We have to make changes to the service and make them quickly as we have a level of unmet needs which I don’t find acceptable.”
Martin Thom, head of older people services, highlighted the growing demand for home care services, and pointed out this was only going to continue, with Fife expecting the number of people over the age of 75 increase by 65 per cent over the next 10 years.
He said that in his view there were not enough home carers, and while the Council was currently recruiting more staff, he doubted that would meet the demand.
“We might see a decrease in the level of pressure by recruiting more staff, but we won’t see a reduction in demand,” he said.
“We have to look at how we can grow home care, rather than squeeze the maximum out of what we have at the moment. We have to grow home care across the board.”
Mr Thom added there was a need to bring younger people into the service.
“The majority of people coming into the service are aged 40 plus, and tend to do the job for a few years and then leave,” he explained. “We are looking at how we can make home care a more attractive career and we’re working with the NHS in Fife to encourage younger people into the profession.”
Mr Thom added that the review of home care should lead to the Council working more effectively with the private sector, which could, in turn, benefit staff working for private companies by making their workload more manageable and perhaps lead to better pay and conditions.
Much of the work given to the private sector at the moment is to look after specific clients, but there is a move towards asking private companies to cover specific areas instead.
Mr Thom said: “If we can give them work on a ‘patch’ basis, giving them more of a commitment and allowing them to grow their businesses, they can recruit staff on a more permanent basis and pay them better wages.”
Cllr Yates added that by giving private providers their own patch, it should cut down on travelling time, allowing carers to spend more time with clients.
“What I want is carers living in the community and caring in their own community,” he said. “Private providers are telling us that if we can give them their own patch, their staff could walk between clients.”