UNPAID carers suffered an increase in their stress levels as a result of reduced day care opportunities in Caerphilly County Borough, an independent report has found.
Since the pandemic, Caerphilly County Borough Council has reduced the amount of day provision it offers children with learning difficulties, and older people.
Prior to the pandemic, attendees were able to go to the day centres four or five times a week for a full-day. Now, only a few hours in one to three sessions a week are offered.
The reduction has received fierce criticism from parents and carers and opposition parties.
In May last year, consultancy Hugh Irwin Associates, which trades as HiCO, was commissioned to review the state of day care in the borough – taking in the views of service users, carers, councillors, council staff, and other agencies.
During the review some carers reported the reduction in day care hours had increased pressure and stress on them and their families. They strongly suggested that there should be a return to previous arrangements.
The report stated: “Some carers expressed fear that this added pressure and the impact on their own health could in time lead to them not being able to provide any care and their family member needing full-time support.”
The review also found friendships had been lost as a result of the reduction in hours and large group sessions no longer being offered.
When asked if there was anything they missed about centre-based support, many service users mentioned not seeing their friends. HiCO said it had been told this had also meant a loss of confidence among some individuals.
On the other hand, the report stated: “We found that some individuals are clearly benefitting from the changes, and equally, some staff report improved job satisfaction and motivation.”
HiCO has recommended alternative options be sought to support unpaid carers. The council has said it is currently exploring this.
HiCO also said there are “clear opportunities” for more effective joint working between the NHS and the council in supporting those with more profound needs.
The report recommended developing a “comprehensive learning and development programme” for staff to shape the change in the provision.
Independent councillor Kevin Etheridge is calling on the council to build an action plan based on HiCO’s recommendations.
He said: “We must move forward together. I have been lobbying for users and carers and their service must be protected, I have raised a number of positive and constructive points with the council who have been helpful and understanding during the report.
“I now wish to see an action plan and timescale when the implementations within the report will be actioned.”
The council said it has already introduced some changes and it is developing an “ambitious” action plan for an “enhanced delivery model” for day opportunities.
The action plan will be presented to the social services scrutiny committee in July.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is currently reviewing the way it delivers day care services in order to ensure we provide a modern, flexible service that best meets the complex and challenging needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”