Probe into care staff complaints

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STAFF at one of Wigan’s largest care providers claim they are being underpaid and do not have the correct equipment to do their job.

Alpha Homecare, which was awarded a contract by Wigan Council to offer home-based care to elderly and disabled people, has failed to pay its workers in full since before Christmas and owes employees thousands of pounds each, staff say.

They also say they have not been given vital equipment, such as aprons and oven gloves, and are expected to see more clients in a day than it is possible to reach.

A group of staff visited Shadow Health Secretary and MP for Leigh Andy Burnham to make complaints about working conditions before Christmas, and he has now demanded a full investigation.

He said: “This is one of those cases which come into my office which is so exceptionally bad it just cannot be left.

“The company is failing in some very basic duties. It is essential the staff are paid in full, and every single penny owed to every single employee is paid.

“It is appalling that staff caring for older and vulnerable people are being left in this position. and it’s disgraceful that, at this difficult time, they are being left unpaid and without the necessary equipment.”

The rota problems faced by Alpha Care staff came to a head over Christmas, when many visits had to be cancelled due to the longer travelling times caused by bad weather.

Staff say that numerous colleagues have already left Alpha Care because of the pressures they are facing.

Mr Burnham added: “I have called on Wigan Council’s Chief Executive to investigate this unacceptable situation immediately. As Shadow Health Secretary I have taken a close interest in the social care system, and examples like this only reinforce my belief that it needs drastic reform. We need a care system that invests in its staff and rewards them for the crucial and difficult work they do.”

Nick Hudson, Corporate Director for People, said: “We commission high quality services to support older people who need help to live in their own homes from a range of providers. In this instance we are disappointed that this provider is falling short of our high expectations.

“We are currently working with the provider to reaffirm our expectations of high quality services and to support them to meet our requirements.

“If the improvements we wish to see do not materialise quickly, we will secure alternative delivery to ensure services to older people meet the quality standards we expect.”

A spokesman for Alpha Homecare said: “We have received a letter from Mr Burnham, and have replied to say the company will be carrying out a full investigation into the points he has raised.

“We will be writing to him again as soon as we have some information to give.”