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Home care standards – social care leaders must be willing to ‘rock the boat’

BASW has expressed concern that senior figures in social care aren’t “prepared to rock the boat” and tackle the culture revealed by a Which? report which asked 30 elderly people or their families to keep diaries of their experiences of home care provided by paid workers and found examples of missed visits, people left alone without food, drink or medication or even access to the toilet.

Ruth Cartwright, BASW England Manager, said: “There are few surprises in this report, we are seeing more and more accounts of how the dignity and human rights of older people are being breached.

“I am glad Which? has issued this report, but am concerned that too many senior people in the social care sector have an interest in not ‘rocking the boat’ and exposing the true meaning of the cuts, in terms of lives jeopardised, for it to make any real difference.

“No doubt home care providers and local authorities will claim that they have no money to provide adequate services, which will be countered by Minister for Care Services Paul Burstow that the sector has plenty of money. Little will be heard from those who commission these services, who should be monitoring them better, or from the home carers who are poorly trained and paid a pittance, and who generally try to do a good job.

“Will anything be heard from social workers? We are involved in home care, as it is often our assessments of need which are used to allocate care and support, and we are supposed to carry out reviews of provision.

“Yet many social workers will have decisions about the amount and nature of care to be provided being completely taken out of their hands, and reviews being carried out in another part of the organisation, sometimes over the phone. Yes, we social workers care, but we are usually overwhelmed, compelled to head off to the next assessment as soon as one is over.

“There are some steps a social worker can take if they are aware that their service users are receiving poor and inadequate services. It is difficult when faced with so much paperwork, but social workers can highlight in assessments the risks of insufficient care and support being allocated to a person.

“Follow up calls after a couple of weeks to see how things are going, making sure that older people and their families know what they should be able to expect and how to complain if they don’t.

“Social workers can whistleblow, either within our organisations or anonymously, to the Care Quality Commission, or another organisation which represents older people like Age UK.

“The entire subject of caring for older people needs to be placed in its wider context. Widespread ignorance about social care means there is not a great deal of public interest in the subject. Our society has a problem with its attitude to older people.

“We are in a recession, so the notion of spending more money on something that most people do not even knows needs to be paid for does not resonate. The NHS has retreated from personal care (one of the issues the report raised was that someone had not been administered his insulin by a home carer), which may well be justified, but none of the money saved has come over to social care.”