Thousands of families around the borough who have hard-working carers looking after elderly or disabled relatives have had their summer plans thrown into chaos by the closure yesterday of Croydon Help For Carers, an outsourced service provider that worked closely with the council’s social services department.
Carers living in working in Croydon, who looked to Help For Carers to provide respite care, were given barely one week’s notice of the withdrawal of the service.
Croydon Council has made no announcement of what action it is taking to replace the services provided by Help For Carers, and Jane Avis, the Labour-run council’s cabinet member responsible for social services, has failed to respond to Inside Croydon’s questions about the crisis for the borough’s carers.
The local authority has a legal obligation, under the Social Care Act 2014, to carers who it has assessed as requiring respite care.
“Why have they not advised anyone of their contingency plans?” one worried carer told Inside Croydon.
Help For Carers today offered this bleak message on one page of its website: “Help For Carers is closing: Care services delivered by Help For Carers and Care At Home will cease on Saturday 30 June 2018. All current clients, staff and commissioners have been informed. The care team will make every effort to ensure that all clients are offered alternative care arrangements. No more client referrals will be accepted.”
Help For Carers, formerly known as Crossroads, operated services in Merton, Sutton and Lambeth, as well as Croydon, from premises in Mitcham. All four London boroughs are affected by the closure.
Help For Carers also had an office in the Carers Support Centre on George Street.
But the Carers Support Centre said that they had no information on the closure of Help For Carers, or the consequences for Croydon’s carers – even though Help For Carers leased office space from them. Help For Carers’ chief executive, Stefan Kuchar, failed to return our calls. He may have been busy…
No one at the company was prepared to explain the reasons for the closure, though it is suggested that, forced to operate on ever-tighter budgets, it reached a point when it could no longer sustain the services demanded.
Help For Carers provided up to 50 hours of one-off free respite for carers of adults in Croydon.
According to Help For Carers staff, it was four weeks ago that “the hard decision to close the company” was taken.
The source said that, “Much work has been done since then to make alternative arrangements for its clients on a range of services.” It is estimated that as many as 80 staff have been made redundant with effect from yesterday’s closure.
According to Croydon Council, there are as many as 33,000 carers living and working in the borough while taking care of family members.
Help For Carers also provided free support, advocacy and advice on a wide range of carers’ issues, running several carers’ social clubs throughout Croydon and various additional events. Their professional staff also offered carer assessments to help determine if families might be eligible for additional help.
“Having a break from your caring role is important for your well-being and quality of life,” Croydon Council’s website states.
“It can help you recharge your batteries and continue in your caring role for as long as you wish to. If you need a break, you can arrange respite (replacement care for the person you care for) privately, through friends and family or via the council.”
But according to Help For Carers, while other councils which used its services have been making alternative arrangements in the past month, in Croydon, “There may be a gap in service.”
One loyal staffer, about to be made unemployed and asking for their identity not to be revealed, said, “Our services should be replaced – but the matter has been taken out of our hands now.”
Croydon Town Hall was due to hold a scrutiny meeting next week to discuss social services provision around the borough. But this has been cancelled, so that councillors can have a training session instead. Clearly, that is far more important than sorting out respite care for 33,000 families around the borough…
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You can trust Croydon Council never to do the right thing. If a service is no longer provided in house it has a duty to have a back up plan if their outsourced service provider crashes. ( It seems to happen a lot these days.) This places lots of people who need a rest and breaks from a demanding 24/7 role facing great uncertainty. Many of these people are vulnerable in their own right due to their age and stress they face in the demands upon them. So what does a supposedly Labour Council do? It appears absolutely nothing.