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Local people gain important say over which home care agencies to be used in Reading

People who receive home care, and local watchdog Healthwatch Reading, have had an important say in deciding which domiciliary care agencies should be used by Reading Borough Council (RBC) when arranging support for local residents.

The council announced on 8 June 2015 that it had approved 12 preferred providers under a new 'Home care Framework', which will replace the previous batch of around 17 agencies

The council invited Healthwatch Reading and home care service users to help set new contract standards - such as the importance of care workers turning up on time and communicating effectively - and to also assess some of the evidence submitted by agencies bidding for work, such as support plans. The involvement of local people was spurred by evidence collected from more than 60 home care service users in a partnership project carried out by Healthwatch Reading and RBC.

Under the framework, agencies are expected to pay home care workers for travel time between house calls, to pay a 'Living Wage', and to sign up to a local Dignity Charter.

Mandeep Kaur Sira, chief executive of Healthwatch Reading said: "Home care is delivered to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and they deserve a high quality service that keeps them safe, retains their dignity, helps them move on from injury or illness, and allows them to live independently at home for longer. This unique partnership project between Healthwatch Reading and RBC has ensured that the views of home care service users and their carers have had a direct influence over the new quality standards set for home care and also a direct say over which home agencies were selected for the new framework. We hope this heralds more direct public involvement in influencing future social care provision in Reading."

The council said successful providers were chosen on their commitment to deliver high quality services to improve outcomes for residents, and the council would work closely with the companies on the list to monitor and improve service quality.

Lead councillor for adult social care, Rachel Eden said: "The council is determined to drive up homecare services in the face of continued government cuts and as people's needs grow. This new framework is an important step in implementing the council's Ethical Care and Dignity Charters to ensure that everyone - Council commissioners, providers and care workers - work together to provide the best quality homecare for residents."

Residents can continue with providers who are not on the new list if they are satisfied with the service and do not wish to make any changes. However, the council will inform them of any quality issues and they can transfer to a new provider on the approved list at any time.