DOMICILIARY carers in Swansea helped keep a badly-hurt man alive at his home until paramedics arrived and then carried on their shift, knowing that other people needed their help.
Tragically the man, who had fallen out of bed and suffered serious injuries, died in hospital the following day. The professionalism and resilience of the two carers – and another two carers who helped them – were singled out at a meeting of full council by social services director David Howes.
Presenting his seventh annual report as director, he also gave an example of how social workers had helped a pregnant woman with a history of mental health problems, substance misuse and abusive relationships become a committed mother when a computer algorithm would have probably recommended that the baby be taken off her. “The baby is thriving, and the case is closed,” he said.
Cllr Alyson Anthony, cabinet member for well-being, spoke about a woman with three children who attended a food bank after the loss of her husband and another child. She said it emerged that the mother had missed out on benefits worth £168 per week for 15 months and was only entitled to claim back one month’s worth. Cllr Anthony said social services staff were coming across cases of unclaimed benefits “day in day out”. During 2022-23 staff helped Swansea residents claim £1.5 million of benefits there were entitled to.
In another example of social services intervention, parents with a toddler who attended a Welsh Government-funded childcare venue were short of food and clothes during very cold weather. Clothes were provided, thanks to a children’s centre, and issues at the family’s home such as cold, damp conditions and mouldy toys were identified. The report said the family was “extremely grateful” for the support they received.
Mr Howes, whose report covered many aspects of adult and children’s services, praised staff, unpaid carers and volunteers for their efforts at a time when he said there was a national shortage of social workers and when domiciliary carers could probably earn more working at Lidl. He was particularly complimentary about children’s services.
But he said improvements could be made. Addressing councillors, he said: “Some areas of performance were less good than we’re used to or would prefer, but overall performance continues to hold up well, and your services remain safe and effective.”
He said the numbers of looked-after children were on a downward trajectory in Swansea, although the figure of 481 looked-after children was only seven fewer than at the same time the previous year. The number of young people on the child protection register – 203 – was three higher than 2021-22. Mr Howes said there was a shortage of foster carers and that the council would have to invest in creating residential placements for looked-after children because the Welsh Government wanted profit-making to be eliminated from the sector.
He said children and elderly people needing social services support presented with higher levels of need than in the past, but that waiting times for people requiring domiciliary care were finally below pre-Covid levels thanks to initiatives such more short-term, targeted rehabilitation for people at Bonymaen House, Bonymaen.
Councillors thanked Mr Howes and his staff for their efforts, but also asked questions about the increase in time that homeless families with children spent in bed and breakfasts in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22, and the decrease in visits to young people on the child protection register.
Cllr Andrea Lewis, cabinet member for service transformation, said bed and breakfasts weren’t ideal for families and that the council had recently converted the former Penlan district housing office into six flats to help those in dire need of accommodation.
Mr Howes said there was a lack of provision more widely and that the council only had a “finite capacity” to look after people. Increasing foster carer numbers, residential placements and the like is a priority for the department this financial year, along with focusing on early intervention and dealing with workforce pressures.