Six Degrees of Paperwork

When people think of what it takes to be a family carer, it’s usually personal qualities that spring to mind, such as patience, empathy or kindness.

But there’s another less obvious skill that’s equally necessary.

Administrative ability. 

Between care plans, needs assessments, risk assessments, budget plans, benefits applications, invoices, payroll, carer contracts and new pension regulations (to name but a few) my shelf of ring binders has been filling up fast.

Under the Self-Directed Support (SDS) system we are given money to employ our own carer within an agreed budget.  That means I am classed as our carer’s employer.  I have no problem with that in principle, but it comes with a shedload of paperwork.   

Of course, it’s important that there’s a record of what’s been discussed, what’s been agreed, how much money is paid out and how it’s being spent.  But what seems a little crazy is that in order to employ our carer for just 15 hours a week, I have to deal with six different organisations.  They are:

·      Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership (formerly Social Services).

·      Cornerstone (the organisation with the contract to provide support to carer employers).

·      Payroll Company.

·      HR company (who handle the employment contract and related issues).

·      Insurance company.

·      The Pensions Regulator.

Contracting out is meant to provide value for money by awarding the service to the most efficient service provider.  Hmm…. I find it hard to believe that this cumbersome system is really an efficient one.  In the four years since I’ve been working with SDS there’s already been three changes of provider.  The insurance, HR and payroll companies have all lost their contracts and been replaced with a shiny new provider.  Needless to say, the newly appointed companies had to start from scratch, which included sending me out a whole raft of new paperwork and new contact information. 

As far as I can see, there is no single person (apart from me) who has an overview of all the relevant bits.  So one organisation won’t necessarily know, or care, what the other five are up to.  Sometimes the right hand isn’t too sure what the left hand is doing.

I used to work in local government and I’m used to dealing with legislation and bureaucratic systems.  Fortunately, I am the kind of person who takes satisfaction from organising my paperwork properly and filing everything in the right place (I’m not sure what that says about me, but I won’t dwell on that for now).  

Not everyone is like that, though.   It can be bamboozling for many, especially an elderly carer with their own health issues to grapple with.  And many carers are juggling the multiple demands of caring for a loved one with looking after other dependents and work commitments.   Keeping track of who deals with what, and the associated paperwork, is less than helpful.  And that’s before you add in all the different arms of the benefits system (let’s not go there).

Perhaps all this paperwork is just a sign of the times and I should submit quietly.  But when the social care system, and the carers who use it, are under increasing strain, wouldn’t it make sense to reduce the number of organisations with a finger in the pie - and thereby streamline the paperwork as well? 

And perhaps (whisper it quietly) that might save a little money, too.