Shameful plight of Britain’s elderly revealed in shocking new report
Published 23/11/2011 | 07:23
A REPORT has condemned England's home care services after finding hundreds of elderly people are being abuse, neglected and having their human rights breached.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission report into council-run home care said there was evidence of a "systematic failure" in the way care was given.
This was despite around half of the 1,254 older people, friends and family members questioned for the report saying they were satisfied with their home care.
The EHRC said there were equally as many examples of treatment that breached human rights, including cases of physical and financial abuse.
Key findings included carers neglecting tasks because of time constraints, carers refusing to warm and serve food because of "unfounded" health and safety concerns, money being stolen over a period of time, chronic disregard for older people's privacy and a disregard for clients' dignity when carrying out intimate tasks.
"The cumulative impact on older people can be profoundly depressing and stressful: tears, frustration, expressions of a desire to die and feelings of being stripped of self-worth and dignity - much of which was avoidable," the report said.
It also recommended greater legal protection for older people after discovering the Human Rights Act does not cover all home care situations.
Equality and human rights commissioner Baroness Sally Greengross said councils were reducing carers' hours, causing them to cut corners.
"The emphasis is on saving pennies rather than providing a service which will meet the very real needs of our grandparents, our parents, and eventually all of us," she said.
National Pensioners Convention general secretary Dot Gibson said the report's findings were shocking.
"The social care system is in urgent need of reform from improving the pay, training and qualifications of staff to better regulation and monitoring of care providers," she said.
"Older people need greater legal protection from abuse and neglect otherwise the horror stories in this latest report will simply continue."
Age UK director Michelle Mitchell said home care must be focused on caring for and listening to individuals "rather than focusing on a tick box of tasks to be completed within a 15-minute time frame".
"This report shows lack of training, skills and knowledge in a low-status workforce are contributing to abuse and neglect."
Care services minister Paul Burstow said: "The EHRC's report exposes the good, bad and ugly sides of care in people's own homes.
"This Government won't tolerate poor care. I am determined to root out ageism and bad practice to drive up quality and dignity in care.
"The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will be conducting an additional programme of inspections of home care providers looking at the care and dignity of older people and how staff are trained and supported."
The CQC has also asked Skills for Care, which supports employers of carers, to draw up training standards and develop a code of conduct for care workers.
Labour spokeswoman for care and older people Liz Kendall said Government cuts were pushing the social care system "to breaking point".
"This important report shines a light on the too-often invisible experiences of older people receiving care at home," said Ms Kendall. "It reveals a service stretched to the limit and older people denied the dignity and respect they deserve.
"It is unacceptable for elderly people to be left for hours without food and drink or not to be properly cleaned.
"Despite all the evidence of the growing crisis in care, the Government is cutting funding for older people's social care by £1.3 billion in real terms this Parliament. They are clearly out of touch with what's really happening on the ground."
John Merry, vice chairman of the Local Government Association's community well-being board, said: "These results are symptomatic of a social care system that is underfunded and in need of urgent reform.
"Councils are facing long-term triple pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs, which have been compounded by recent Government funding cuts. Despite their best efforts, they are having to make tough decisions about the care services they can provide.
"Carrying out home care inspections will help to make the service more accountable and transparent and in turn help boost the public's confidence that people in need are being properly looked after."
Mr Merry added: "Reforming adult social care is one of the most important issues this country is facing and governments can't keep dodging the question of how to properly fund it. The longer ministers procrastinate, the more our population ages and the worse things will become."
The British Institute of Human Rights welcomed the report.
Its director, Stephen Bowen, said: "This report shows the basic human rights that many of us take for granted are being routinely denied to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
"We hope this inquiry will act as a wake-up call. Older people have human rights too.
"We urgently need to ensure that whoever provides personal and intimate care for older and vulnerable people is legally bound to protect people's basic human rights."