The news that older people are being stolen from, left hungry and dirty by local authority funded care workers responsible for looking after them is truly shocking and a sad indictment of how our supposedly humane society allows older people to be treated.
The findings in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into home care show that in too many cases support provided to many older people in their own homes fails to uphold the basic rights enshrined in law that most of us would expect as a moral obligation.
The report reveals not only extreme abuse but a pattern of lower level insidious and uncaring ill treatment. Examples include carers talking on their mobiles while working , treating those they care for as invisible or leaving someone sitting on a toilet. A disrespectful approach undermines the dignity and self- worth of people who often find it difficult to complain or are afraid to do so out of fear of reprisals , enabling the abuse and neglect to continue unabated.
How is this allowed to happen? Funding is part of the answer – local authority spending cuts have led to many councils cutting back on spending on care and support for older people. In some areas this will mean that care packages will be cut, leaving older people to struggle on alone with only the most disabled receiving any care support. In others, a less than generous care package will have been further cut back meaning that older people will be visited fleetingly with,without doubt, visits from home carers which are too short to enable proper care let alone any of the social interaction so important for us all, and so needed by those already isolated.
Low wages and status for care workers does not help in creating a motivated and professional workforce and training should be urgently addressed. WE must place the needs and humanity of those needing care at the centre of our thinking, not treat them merely as the subjects of a list of tasks to be completed. And we need to let those who hold the budgets that we want sufficient funding to allow care reflect the respect and dignity that should be accorded to older people.
Horrifying as today’s report is – we hope that it will be read and reflected on by those who have the power to change the situation.
Age UK believes it is incumbent on every local authority and care provider to pay much more attention to the basic human rights of the people who rely on them for care .That means setting budgets which allow proper support and carefully monitoring contracts with home care providers to ensure they are working properly. A number of recent court cases have upheld this view, forcing local authorities to reconsider their budgets and planned cuts to care services. National government must acknowledge that it has a role to play in ensuring that sufficient funds reach the frontline of care provision and ensuring a sustainable future for social care in this country.
We as a nation must decide whether as a society we are prepared to let older people – and that will include each one of us one day – to be treated in this way. If we are sickened and appalled by what this report has uncovered then we need to let our leaders know that we want change.