Sunday, 5 June 2011

Care of the elderly

PoliticsHome reports The Times (£) is in turn reporting that the Government is planning to cap care bills for the elderly by pledging to pay any costs in excess of £50,000. The proposals are expected to be unveiled in a white paper this autumn. Care Minister Paul Burstow has said he intends to create a requirement for every council with social care responsibilities to have an adult safeguarding board. Michael Meacher weighs in with a post on his blog stating that if  there’s one good thing about Southern Cross and Winterbourne View, it’s that they bring the scandal over care for the elderly to boiling point. The Sunday Telegraph (business section) weighs in with two articles about Southern Cross; one here the other here, plus a further article by Olga Craig in the main section.

As usual the political response is to create yet more oversight bodies. Not having access to the Times article it is not known what other details there are for the proposed adult safeguarding boards; for example to whom they will be responsible or what their composition might be. What it does show is that the only response of central government to this problem of elderly care is more central government. With proper governance by those involved in the care for the elderly it is possible for such oversight to be carried out locally. As an example the housing association that is my landlord is creating Local Governance Boards, the composition of which would be a 50/50 split of their employees and residents; the aim being that such a board could, without notice, ask to investigate any aspect of their operating policy. Asked to put myself forward for one of these positions I declined as one of the conditions any member of this board would have would be to actively promote the interests of the housing association - which then raises a conflict of interest should a situation arise whereby a proposed action was one with which I, as a tenant, disagreed. However it does show that the kernel of the idea for local oversight does exist. Michael Meacher writes that the  killer fact is that since 2004 net spending on social care for the elderly has risen by just 0.1% a year in real terms, a total of £43m and that over the same period real spending on the NHS has risen by £25,000m - yet fails to mention that for eight of those years it was his party that was in government.

The Sunday Telegraph articles, headlined "Is there life yet in Southern Cross" - and unfortunate pun for a headline dealing with what amounts to the care of people waiting to die - shows that even now the person brought in to rectify the problems of Southern Cross does not understand their raison d'etre. Jamie Buchan, CEO of Southern Cross, is quoted as stating that only actual care is a core competence, that maintenance of homes is not and will be outsourced to another organisation. Surely provision of care and the maintenance of homes are interlinked and to separate them will just create further opportunities for a lowering of standards - and buck-passing. Perhaps the biggest scandal in respect of Southern Cross is the fact that the lives of the elderly have been put in jeopardy by the prolifigacy of people who should know better.

It is, in my opinion, the responsibility of any nation to care for its elderly population because it is a fact that without the efforts of the older population the younger generation would have nothing to enjoy. It is all very well to suggest that some form of compulsory insurance should be introduced for future generations to fund their own old-age (and it should) but that does not resolve the present crisis. Governments have, for some time, known that with a growing aging population the present funding scheme would not be able to cope, yet did nothing. To compound what amounts to a dereliction of any government's duty of care towards its people and to then decide that, come what may, money will be given to foreign countries in the form of financial aid, supposedly to benefit their people, beggars belief.

It is a known fact that in later life the parent/child relationship is reversed, resulting in children of the elderly having to assume the 'parental role'. In response to the present situation government will no doubt 'consult' with those involved in care for the elderly & vulnerable (namely self-serving fake charities). What can be taken as read is that the ones they will not be consulting will be the advocates of the elderly and vulnerable - but hey, why break the habit of a lifetime where consultation is involved?

There is what could be termed a 'knock-on' effect to the Southern Cross problem - and that is the worry that residents in care homes now have, if my experience today is a yardstick. Visiting my mother this afternoon, who will be 100 come December this year, she was extremely concerned, to the point of tears, that she would have to move - a situation, it is logical to assume, that has been replicated across the country.

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