Care – is it becoming a valueless commodity?
Earlier this week I watched one of the most harrowing programmes I have ever watched on television, one that showed the cruel treatment of vulnerable people by their so-called carers. This abuse happened in a private hospital in England by staff who were employed to care for a group of vulnerable people with learning disabilities and autism. The abuse had been happening for a period of time and had been reported to both the owners of the home and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) a national regulator but alas no action was taken. Unbelievably it took a television programme, the BBC One’s Panorama, to film the abuse and to show it on television before any action was taken to remove the offenders and rehome the residents to a place of safety. I pray that the victims and their families are now receiving expert care and attention which will help them to recover from these traumatic events and rebuild their lives.
In the aftermath of these shocking revelations, there has been much discussion as people try and comprehend what has happened, why it happened and why it went unchecked for so long. Much of this has involved questions being asked of the competency of the regulatory body and why they failed to respond to reports of abuse months earlier. As a result I have listened to many reports over the past week that has exposed internal problems with the CQC regarding issues such as heavy workloads and the poor quality of inspections. The functioning of the CQC does need to be addressed with the utmost urgency not only to protect those people who are in care but to also maintain public trust in our care system. You see this case comes after a series of other reports of neglect, most notably that of our elderly people in hospitals, which together paints a gloomy picture of a country that doesn’t care very much for its most vulnerable people. Indeed what sort of society do we live in that doesn’t treat its elderly, disabled or sick people with respect and dignity? This week I have felt ashamed of my country and angry with the succession of British governments that have led us into an increasingly shallow and uncaring society.
But it is not just the CQC that should be the focus of our attention but also a multitude of other issues that need investigation, from the structure of the system to management, recruitment, training and remuneration of those who work in care. Another equally pressing issue that needs our attention is whether it is right that care should be privatised. Indeed is it right that some money making tycoon should be making money out of social care? You don’t need a PhD to know that privatisation can lead to cost effective measures being put in place which can produce shoddy service for the sake of profit. And if that “money making attitude” is carried into the care sector, then it seems highly likely to me that vulnerable people will be at greater risk of receiving a poor service which could have detrimental affect to their physical and mental well being. As was obvious on the Panorama programme, aside from the particular acts of bullying and abuse, there were other residents just sitting there with no obvious attempt by the staff to positively engage or to interact with them or to provide activities or therapies. And yet it is reported that the weekly cost for a resident is about £3,500 which I think is an extortionate amount of money for what the residents were getting in return. I find this not only desperately sad for the residents who were deprived of activities and therapies but fearful that this sort of exploitation is likely to be more commonplace in private care. If this is not bad enough, there is also the recent case of Southern Cross whose complex sale and leaseback business arrangement has left Britain’s biggest care home provider near to collapse and its many thousands of resients at risk of not receiving care. And yet some politicians argue that the privatisation of care can be well regulated and controlled. Yet haven’t we just witnessed the failing of the British government to ensure that such homes are operating in the best interests of the residents?
Not surprisingly, my confidence in any organisations to provide care and support for my relatives is at an all time low. Having experienced a lack of understanding of the needs of my autistic son within the public system and the dishonesty of some professionals as they attempted to dissuade us from seeking an appropriate education for our son, we are left feeling distrustful. Reports such as that provided from the Panorama programme just worsens my feelings of distrust and has made me resolved to care for my own children should that need ever arise. I know there are good hospitals and homes where staff are compassionate and dedicated to caring for their patients and residents but it seems like you need a whole load of luck to be able to get your loved one into a place like this. And am I prepared to chance the care of my beloved family members? No, I’m not and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like this.
In response to the Panorama programme the National Autistic Society (NAS) has launched a petition to call on the Government to take urgent action to deal with the failings in the current system of inspection. Please click here to read the response from the NAS and/or to sign the petition. Thank you.
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