Thursday, 20 January 2011

The plight of the elderly

By way of explanation to this post, I held the position of Vice Chair in Shelter Housing UK, a charity set up to promote the rights of those in that type of housing. Due to the fact I am instigating legal action against Oxfordshire County Council, my previous Registered Social Landlord (RSL); at the same time intending to create as much trouble as possible for my constituency MP, who also happens to live at 10 Downing Street - I resigned from this position as events are going to become very political, very personal and I had no wish to cause potential embarrassment to to an organisation of which I was proud and honoured to be a member.

Over the last few days I have received many telephone calls from other residents in sheltered housing, who are worried to death over what they perceive as dangers to their safety; lack of their RSL to "listen" to their complaints - and, more importantly, have no idea how to prevent themselves being "ridden roughshod" by their RSL. To listen to these residents "worries" would, I assure you, bring tears to the eyes of even the most "stony-hearted".

Residents of sheltered housing - and I also include those members of our society who are considered "vulnerable" in various definitions of the Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which also includes the disabled, have no knowledge of the law; have no understanding of modern business practices; nor an understanding of modern "business" language,or even "beaucratese". For government, local authorities and RSLs to "bulldoze" change to their lives, by utilising that lack of knowledge, is an abuse of such people - and in so doing to use housing law to change contract law - also falls foul of that Act.

No matter which housing association website is viewed, all state as one of their "core" beliefs the dignity and well being of their residents - yet this is the one "core" beliefs in which it is obvious they do not believe - if they did, how is it that "abuse" of those in their care is so prevalent? Having said that, there are one or two (figuratively speaking) housing association that really do care for their residents - one of which I am sufficiently lucky have as a landlord.

One aspect of sheltered housing accommodation - and one that prompted so many of those who opted for this type of accommodation - that proved attractive was the provision of a full-time warden. This person was employed to offer reassurance to residents; to deal with their problems with social services; and who organised social activities, "tea parties" and day-trips etc. For those residents who were without family, wardens became their "confidant" and "friend", someone with whom they could confide their "fears" about ill-health, death, etc, etc.

With the onset of un-ringfencing the SP central grant, understandably, local authorities looked at ways of getting "better value for money" by means of making cuts to SP provision, thus allowing more money to be spent on other demands on their "purse". This involved a transition to what became known as "Floating Support" whereby people were employed to care for a number of schemes, which resulted in the Floating Support usually visiting a scheme for about an hour a day - often once a week, if not longer -  leaving those residents without the continual support to which they had become accustomed. Those residents who moved into sheltered housing, prior to the change outlined above, signed a lease (or contract, because a lease is a contract) which specified the provision of a full-time warden, even one on present 24/7). Besides using the excuse of the EU Working Time Directive, RSLs have used Housing Law to subvert Contract Law - and it is a recognised tenet of law that contract law is superior to housing law - and all without any proper "consultation"

Prior to 2003, monies to pay for warden's salaries came from within housing benefit, but the last government changed that method and created a programme known as Supporting People, part of whose responsibility was to use their central government grant to pay the salaries of wardens. This grant was "ring-fenced", but in 2006 the Labour government removed the "ring-fencing" element, thus allowing local authorities (in most cases, County Councils) to use this grant for other purposes. This led to the introduction of what is termed "Floating Support" - outlined above. Because of the infrequency of visits by Floating Support staff, the result has been instances whereby elderly people have fallen and remained immobile - which in some instances has resulted in their death. Other instances are documented in which an elderly person has collapsed and died and remained so for days on end.

Not just because - to coin a phrase, I am "getting on a tad" - but because I do "feel" for the plight of the elderly, who are "being taken for a ride", I believe their treatment by governments to be irreprehensible. Numerous "consultations" were held, we are assured, by those responsible for the care of the elderly, yet those "consultations" were held amongst "interested parties", otherwise known as "stakeholders". If one looks at those "interested parties", or "stakeholders", not one of them is of an age whereby they would know what it is to be "elderley" - or if they did, were in possession of "private means" whereby they did not have to use services provided by the state. As I pointed out to David Cameron, when I attended one of his surgeries at the beginning of October last year, those creating the world in which the elderly live - when their time comes whereby they have to maybe access that service - are not going to like the "world" they have created. I would also ask: Is this how you would wish one of your nearest and dearest to end their days?

It is hoped that readers will forgive me if I end on a personal note. On the right hand side of my blog you will find an invitation to email me. Please do contact me if you have relatives in sheltered housing and whom you feel have been "abused", either financially, physically, mentally, or who you feel have been "misinformed". If you can provide a contact telephone number, I will call you as the more "evidence" I am able to gather the stronger my case, on behalf of our elderly, becomes.


Anonymous said...

Power to your elbow WfW.

One of the most asked questions of our time seems to be “Why does nothing work anymore?”

This country was once a haven where the old could die with dignity, the sick would be cared for, and our children would be protected.

I had an uncle who used to be employed to look after a small old people’s estate; it was a good job – he had a nice house on the estate but it meant that about 30 households of elderly people were visited daily and their houses and gardens looked after.

Where the hell has that Britain gone?

James Higham said...

Residents of sheltered housing - and I also include those members of our society who are considered "vulnerable" in various definitions of the Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which also includes the disabled, have no knowledge of the law; have no understanding of modern business practices; nor an understanding of modern "business" language,or even "beaucratese".

This one always gets me. In my 20s, I voted for pensioners issues candidates at elections and people thought that was mad. It's Niemoller all over again - not directly concerning us and yet it does very much need to be our concern.

I have no one currently in the situation and my own is some years away but if there is something we can do, then I'd like to know about it.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

BJ: Thanks.

JH: Badger your MP!As with the point about children and social services (forced removal from family) MPs need to be held to account and made to justify their inaction!