Eight hundred eople receive home care arranged by Waltham Forest’s adult services to help them in their daily routine so they can live independently.
But since the council reduced the number of agencies from 15 to three on April 21 following a tendering process, the Guardian has been inundated with calls from distressed and anxious clients or family members because of a consistently poor service by inexperienced staff.
Jean Hale, 62, said carers from agency Leonard Cheshire Disability have not turned up for her disabled sister, Shirley, 70, or arrive hours late and have missed her medication on occasion.
She said: “It is terrible. When she is out of her routine it makes her ill.
“Leonard Cheshire are apologetic, but I don’t want sorrys I want it sorted.”
The warden where Miss Hale lives at Bay Tree House sheltered accomodation, Dells Close, Chingford, Bharti Makwana, said: “Medication has been missed, lunches have been missed. Some of them are going hungry.
“They say it is teething problems but it is more than that because the staff don’t seem experienced.”
The Waltham Forest Outcome Based Home Care Service was launched by the council and Primary Care Trust last week, after they awarded contracts to Leonard Cheshire Disability, Housing 21 and Allied Healthcare agencies following a tendering process.
Since then, clients have also complained that different staff arrive for the morning and evening shift so they always to explain their needs.
Some who require two carers so the hoist can be used to get them out of bed say invaribly only one arrives.
Marilyn Willison, 56, of Ainslee Wood Road, Chingford, said her 83-year-old mother, Tess Wade, who is partially paralysed following a stroke, has been left waiting for hours.
She said: “I feel disgusted with it. Treating the elderly like this isn’t fair. There was a 96-year-old who normally goes to bed at 8pm and the carer didn’t arrive until midnight.
“I know why the council did this, it is probably because it is cheaper. But to think of all these poor people who can’t get up or go to bed at their normal time.”
Frances Welles, 64, of Cobham Road in Highams Park pays £87 a months for visits from Housing 21 because she is in a wheelchair.
She said: “Since social services have reduced the number of agencies, I have been let down. It is terrible hanging around when you are stuck in a wheelchair.
“I can speak up but some people can’t and are left lying in bed for 18 hours.
“Why start a new system when you are not prepared? I am really angry about it.”
Waltham Forest Councils cabinet member for health, adults and older people, Cllr Liz Phillips said: "I'd like to apologise to any resident who has not received the high quality care they deserve and expect.
"The council has instructed Leonard Cheshire Disability and Housing 21 that their present levels of service are unacceptable and is working with both companies to ensure their performance quickly improves.
"Both companies will work to an agreed action plan so that the council can ensure the service quickly returns to the expected high standards. If this does not happen the Council has the power to cancel the contract."
A Housing 21 spokeswoman said that it has “encountered a number of unanticipated problems which resulted in service disruption” since it started the contract, some of which were caused by transferring staff.
Director of older people’s services, Les Clarke, said: “I offer an unreserved apology to anybody who experienced problems with the service and give a total commitment to providing an excellent service to the people of this borough, as we do elsewhere.
“We have now brought in experienced staff from other parts of our care services and I am confident that these early teething problems will be resolved very quickly.”
Peter Grimshaw, divisional director of care at Home Services at Leonard Cheshire Disability, apologised for any distress caused.
He said: "We know there have been occasions where visits have unfortunately been missed or delayed. We are doing our best to eliminate these problems.
“We are taking immediate action wherever we can and have brought in staff from other Leonard Cheshire Disability services.
“We would like to reassure people that we take the care and wellbeing of our service users very seriously and are working closely with the local authority to do everything we can to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.”
This Is Local London, 29th April, 2009