Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Care Home Business

I don't think anyone who watched this week's Panorama wouldn't have felt sickened - if not horrified - at the abuse dished out to our most vulnerable.

Yet we're brainwashed into believing social services know best - the same people who continue to remove those with 'social problems' from their environments to do, what the programme highlighted, 'assessments'.  Some of this is with family approval because these caring people think they could do better for their family member.  I do hope this programme has opened their eyes.

I also hope it's given younger generations food for thought about where they deposit their parent(s) who can no longer safely live in their own homes.  There have been many programmes about abuse in homes for the elderly in recent years and I know it's a heart breaking decision to place a parent in a home, but there are Homes and homes.

Here is Scotland, rather like England, homes for the elderly are supervised by a care organisation and Scotland's now calls itself SCSWIS. How can anyone know what that acronym means?  It's the Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland.  There are many other websites related to care of the elderly in Scotland and all express a devotion to the care of those in their last years. Nouns like 'dignity' and 'respect' are often used to emphasis how much we care about our aging, but words are meaningless when some care homes are nothing more than prisons where conformity is the steadfast rule.

The collapse of Southern Cross care homes and the potential tragedy for residents and staff has highlighted the private care home industry.  In Scotland the Elsie Inglis care home in Edinburgh voluntarily closed after being told to make 'urgent and immediate improvements'.  The home was being investigated by SCSWIS who said they had 'serious concerns; about standards of care.  Why didn't they close it down immediately?

Years ago I had quite a few dealings with what were then called homes for the elderly.  They were run by the local council and all provided an excellent quality of care.  Gradually they have all been sold to private buyers, many being large organisations, whose main aim is to provide large profits for their shareholders. I've undertaken voluntary work in a couple of private homes and the experience certainly opened my eyes.  Tea, the last meal of the day, was at 4.30pm and usually composed of sandwiches. "The elderly don't eat much" I was told.  The only other food available before breakfast was one standard-sized packet of either Rich Tea or Digestives to be dispensed between 35 residents along with their 7pm cup of tea. The kitchen was locked when the catering staff finished at 5.30pm and along with the biscuits was a small carton of milk which was divided between the two large teapots.  If, like me, you didn't like milk in tea it was a sake of take it or do without.

The homes in which I worked have changed hands over the years and I've no idea about the standards today, but those in which I worked were then graded as 'very satisfactory'.  I was young enough at the time to think I'll never ever come to such a place, but as I age I realise there is a possibility that I could have no choice.

What I've never understood is why our politicians think privatising care homes benefits the elderly. More councils in Scotland are privatising home care in response to budget cuts and we are drifting into a fully privatised service. Local authorities insist that providing care homes is too expensive and a drain on their resources.  When they sell a home it's short-term gain.

We need a debate about the care home business before more of our elderly suffer the distress associated with collapses such as Southern Cross. Northern Ireland is calling for the privatisation of their care homes because it could save as much as £50m a year.  A single tram line in Edinburgh has been funded by public money to the tune of £450m. Are our priorities wrong?  Should we be caring for our less-able elderly directly rather than paying private organisations?


Richard T said...

If, as a country (I mean the UK here) we stopped pursuing vainglorious miltary adventures, there would be money galore to fund proper care for those who need it - just add up what our futile efforts in Afghanistan cost. I mean no disrespect to the troops who are out there who are doing a marvellous job in an intolerable environment but they should not have been there in the first place.

Of course, if the Inland Revenue (or whatever it calls itself now) actually went after tax dodgers, like the bankers and the non doms properly then there would be money to fund what is socially necessary at the expense of those who have more than they could ever spend.

Quiet_Man said...

The mark of a civilised society is how we treat our elderly, sadly it appears we are not a civilised society any more.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

QM sums up admirably, SR. For my twopenneth - where to start?

As I believe you are aware my mother is in a council-run care home, which is extremely good, staffed by people who have been working there 15 years or more, people who obviously have a 'calling' for this work - therein lies its success?

For too long profit has been the aim of those in the private practise and with supposedly non-profit making charities too. I have no objection to any organisation making a profit providing (a) that is not at the expense of the vulnerable and elderly and (b) any such profit is ploughed back into the care and maintenance of the buildings.

Picking up on QM's point, it is an utter disgrace that aid is provided to countries more prosperous than us, that support is offered to asylum seekers which must detract from the pot that is available to care for the elderly.

Is it not the duty of society to care for their own vulnerable and elderly, those who made it possible for the younger generations to have a life?

The political mindset leaves me agog with amazement!

cynicalHighlander said...

Southern Cross chiefs netted £35m

Profit before people is the UK's philosophy.

subrosa said...

Exactly Richard T, well said.

Pensioners groups are disregarded by government as a bunch of old fogies thinking only of themselves. That isn't true. What many try - and sadly fail - to do is to ensure future generations are better served than the elderly of today.

What is needed is a strong group of independent people prepared to be very vocal. Age Concern (or whatever it's called now) is a quango. They pay lip service to government.

subrosa said...

Very true QM.

subrosa said...

WfW, I know you think your mother is fortunate to be where she is and you're right. But we shouldn't have a system where standards are so variable. We're told massive amounts of money is ploughed into care yet there seems to be little improvement. As I said council run homes provide the best care, I have no doubt about that.

How can private business undercut the council costs and also make a profit? By reducing the quality of the product.

Our politicians continue to utter the lie we're a tolerant and caring society. We're tolerant of our elderly being failed and also tolerant of very visible falling standards of care.


subrosa said...

Thank you CH. I didn't put a link as I thought most people would have heard about the obscene actions of that company. They'll not be the only ones who have made such a killing at the expense of the elderly though.

Unless this is debated urgently, I foresee in around 10 years' time, NHS staff having to go into these places to do the work.

This cash cow has to stop. The money should be circulated within the public sector.

Apogee said...

Hi SR,Its a sad fact that if the waste caused by political incompetence and mismanagement was cut by 50%, we could afford a lot of care homes. Privatisation has much more to do with ducking the problem than being of any help to the elderly.Perhaps an investigation of the people running these privatised homes and their business ethics and the same for those who privatised these homes could be instructive.

Jo G said...

The Panorama programme wasn't about the elderly: it was about a different client group, people with learning disabilities.

When Thatcher introduced Community Care in the UK (this was prior to devolution) a great deal of money was thrown at it initially. I know because I was part of the process in Lanarkshire and was involved with my family and others working with the Authorities to establish how Care in the Community would work here. Many people at that time were moving from long-stay facilities into smaller ones within ordinary communities. As I said money was no object, initially, but once the system was bedded in that all changed.

"Care" agencies, in Lanarkshire anyway, now tender for Council contracts to "look after" people with learning disabilities. Thus we have agencies in there who operate with unqualified staff who will, nevertheless, be termed "support workers" when they have no experience of working with people with a wide range of needs. They may also be on the minimum wage and the facilities will be understaffed. It is disgusting that the care of the most vulnerable group in our midst is catered for in such a manner.

That Care in the Community for people with learning disabilities deteriorated so quickly to the appalling level we now see is disgusting. The "Care" Commission in England had received three complaints about the place Panorama featured. They did nothing. We have a Care Commission in Scotland that works along similar lines. Their visits to facilities providing care are announced well in advance usually once a year. They tick boxes when they visit and then they leave. The set up fails to properly monitor arrangements or the quality of care being provided.

That has to change.

Nikostratos said...


'sickened - if not horrified ' but not a bit surprised abuse can and does and will continue to happen in care homes.
Staffed with underpaid unqualified and unappreciated people.

Being a carer is for most people and politicians a lowly position suitable only for the stupid and feckless in society(or more likely from another country).

You want good care then you have to pay for it the money is there its up to the public to make a choice.Look after your elderly and vulnerable or not
The vast majority of polticos would rather side step this fact
than take it head on kidding the voters you can have good quality care without paying the price.

And most voters like to hear that too but it is an untruth which needs to admitted.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Care in the Community - a euphemism for the cheapest form of care is neglect.

wisnaeme said...

I agree with many of the fore made comments and observations.
Although I haven't had much experience of elderly relations being in care homes, I would like to say that I was a carer 24/7 for nearly four years.

If these councils who wish to absolve themselves of their responsibilities by out sourcing them to private providers of health care provision. Then I would remove their mandate towards "caring in the community" for our elderly and our infirm and place that responsibility in the hands of the Scottish Government. Perhaps with a large input from the Scottish NHS. It is about time this shedding of their responsibilities by councillors, associated public bodies and their bean counters ceased. We have heard how Scottish construction has increased 14% as opposed to England's construction slump of 4% ( and I suspect that figure to have been optimistically massaged). Perhaps public monies can be invested in purpose built, day care centres, residential care centres ....and relief residential care centres where the elderly or infirm can have regular short breaks away from their homes. In the process giving their family, friends and professional carers in their homes a break. OK, that is going to cost but as others have said it's about time we got our priorities right and the care of not only our elderly and infirm but the care of our less fortunate no matter their age, takes priority over the obscene waste of resources conducting foreign adventurism and "public good" schemes such as trident et al.
Profit has no place in a caring society. We are the shareholders in our community and society ...and so are the elderly and infirm.

JRB said...

If ever there was a misnomer then it must surely be - Care Home

It is totally transparent to all, that the one thing missing is - Care

Jo G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo G said...


There is a debate to be had about care for the elderly but please, they shouldn't hijack this programme. It wasn't about THEM! It was about people who are even more vulnerable.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

@Jo G: Go read the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006!

It matters not whether they are those with learning disabilities or those in care homes, they are vulnerable and deserve every penny spent on them. You seem to forget that the last of those who fought for this country 1939/1945 are still alive and were it not for them you would not have the country you do (albeit a poor one, but one far better than it would have been!)

Jo G said...

WFW this article referred to the Panorama prog midweek which was NOT about the elderly.

I forget nothing so don't lecture me ok? If Subrosa wants a debate about care for the elderly that's fine. She should NOT have this programme at the head of it because it was NOT about the elderly, it was about people with Learning Disabilities. END OF. And as a person with a family member who has learning disabilities I resent this programme being hijacked by another group entirely.

Jo G said...

"It matters not whether they ...."

It matters bigtime! This thread hasn't even mentioned Learning Disabilities people yet that was what the Panorama prog was about. Its been all about the elderly! There IS a difference in the two groups whether you recognise it or not.

Jo G said...

WFW I am incensed here by your "If it wasn't for ......." crap! How dare you suggest I don't respect those people. My own father fought in WW2. The point I'm making, which you obviously missed was that the programme Subrosa highlighted wasn't about the elderly but another group besides.

Jo G said...

"@Jo G: Go read the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006!"

WFW........go watch the programme again!!!!!

James Higham said...

I'm absolutely numb over this treatment. A nation in which its elderly are treated shabbily and its children are not protected from all manner of adult life they're way too early for is a sick nation.

Jo G said...

James obviously didn't watch the programme either.

Sorry Surbrosa, but I'm disgusted that you've hijacked a programme that was about Learning Disabilities to focus on "the elderly". I can't tell you how disgusted. I am sick here about it.

There is a case to be made for care of the elderly but this Panorama programme wasn't about that group. I speak also as a person who has a sister with Leraning Disabilities. I am gutted that the "elderly" think they are so much more important than she is.

Anoneumouse said...

If you have to regulate for the care of the old then, as a civilised society you have failed.

If you have to regulate the care of the old, then you haven't reached the aspirations of a civilised society.

If you think you are civilised and you still have to regulate for the care of the old, you must be a Scottish Nationalist.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

@Jo G: What was it Cameron said: Oh yes: Calm down dear!

Look I am sure SR did not deliberately highjack anything, but the two are linked in that they are both vulnerable people.

I can understand your passion for those with learning difficulties as I am sure you can undeerstand those of us with relatives in care homes.

I think you also have to appreciate that in the comments section we are visitors to a blog hosted by someone else so we should respect their 'province'. Lots of comments are made 'tongue in cheek' and some forcefully and any difference of opinion should never get personal.

Now, in deference to our host SR, lets drop it?

Jo G said...

WFW your last comment deserves nothing but contempt and I will not DROP it. If you lack the intelligence to understand a programme put out by Panorama to highlight the plight of the LEARNING DISABILITIES group and not the elderly that's your problem, not mine.

I do not seek to sideline the plight of the elderly. I say only this: the Panorama programme highlighted here did not concern the elderly. Not remotely.

Jo G said...

Oh and WFW the two are NOT linked. They are separate. Too bad then that I am the only person on this thread to mention Learning Disabilities. Everyone else was cocnerned with the elderly who were NOT the focus of the Panorama programme the thread started with. Get it? No, I thought not.

Jo G said...

"I can understand your passion for those with learning difficulties as I am sure you can undeerstand those of us with relatives in care homes."

No WFW, you DON'T understand. The Panorama programme was about THEM, not the elderly. You clearly don't understand that!

WitteringsfromWitney said...

@Jo G: It seems to me that you have a lot to learn about internet manners and courtesy. We do not shout (capitals) at each other, neither do we abuse the courtesy of visiting someone's blog.

The point that I think most people commenting on here appreciate is that the fact the home featured dealt with those suffering from learning disabilities was used to serve as an example how vulnerable and elderly people were being treated. Having looked at the last audit report for Westbourne View I notice that they also cater for those detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, yet you make no mention of them - who surely are also vulnerable people?

You have made your point, quite forcibly, so why not just let it drop?

subrosa said...

Good idea Apogee but that will never happen. Politicians have to look after 'business' don't ye know? Of course you do.

subrosa said...

I know that Jo and I'm sure anyone who watched the programme does too.

The Panorama programme was an introduction to the care home business with my emphasis on care of the elderly.

I'd be delighted to publish a post from you about Community Care of which I know little. My experience lies in care homes for older people as I think I made clear.

subrosa said...

There's an excellent home for the elderly here Niko and it has fully qualified staff, plus enough of them, yet the couple who run it make a living or they wouldn't do it.

Good care doesn't necessarily mean paying more money, in the same way as private medics don't necessarily offer the best treatment.

I'm doing some research on financial figures and I'l write something during the week.

subrosa said...

Crinkly, as I said to Jo I know little about Care in the Community, but in this area it seems to be acceptable although there's room for improvement. From what I know it does help keep people in their own homes as long as possible.

subrosa said...

Wisnaeme, we used to have such places but since many councils sold off their homes then people have to rely on hospices or private homes for their respite and places are few and far between.

We really do need a debate to see how many people would prefer local authorities to run care homes.

subrosa said...

It's not too obvious in hospitals these days either JRB.

subrosa said...

Jo, if you check out my third paragraph you will notice I then discuss homes for the elderly at some length.

subrosa said...

Jo, I've already answered your comment. I mention there have been several programmes similar to last week's with regard to homes for the elderly then I continue to talk about them.

subrosa said...

We're in a bad way James. Society has changed and families no longer necessarily live nearby, but we've had enough time to address this and rejecting the care of out elderly, as QM says, is uncivilised.

subrosa said...

Yes the two are linked WfW, but the core of my post was about the elderly as - and I've said this to Jo - I have no experience of homes for younger people with difficulties. I have with the elderly who suffer forms of dementia etc.

subrosa said...

Jo, please, you're not reading my answers. Please do.

Jo G said...


"It seems to me that you have a lot to learn about internet manners and courtesy."

Don't you dare lecture me about manners. You couldn't even watch a programme and figure out what it was about. I will take no lectures from you in manners.

Jo G said...

Subrosa, I'm talking about Learning Disabilites, not elderly. The Panorama programme was about Learning Disabilities people, not elderly. Your answers don't matter. You missed the point. Much damage done. Especially when I've been on here and had to take shit from the likes of WFW for simply stating a fact.

Jo G said...

Subrosa, I have no interest in posting on care for Learning Disabilities here. The Panorama programme was about them and you took it and turned it into something else. That says it all. There is no point. I wish you and your blog well.

subrosa said...

Jo, my introduction was about the Panorama I agree, but it was an introduction not the core of the post.

Jo G said...

In that case Subrosa you should not have used people with Learning Disabilites to lead you to your main point. They are worth more than that.

subrosa said...

Jo, the Panorama programme was about vulnerable adults in care. As it happens the adults shown in the programme were all less than pensionable age.

Aren't elderly people in care vulnerable? I would say so or they would be able to live in their own homes. Elderly people do have learning difficulties too.

Mark The Skint Sailor said...

The thing about abuse is it doesn't have to be the sort meted out in the Panorama program.

For instance I knew of a home for the elderly with 40-ish residents, served by four staff. Because there were so few staff, little time could be given to actually caring for the residents. Instead they had to be washed and cleaned within a certain time, so that breakfast could be served. Residents didn't have a choice of what they could have for breakfast: you took or left what was offered. Then staff cleaned rooms, again with little time to attend each room before dinner was served, again with no choice in what was served... the regimen carried on through the day until everyone was tucked up in bed at the allotted time.

It was like a prison, not where I'd want to be in my latter years.

Its also in direct contradiction to DOLS and POVA, which is supposed to enforce freedom of choice for service users (residents).

They were not being abused per se, but the lack of freedom and the low level of care was in itself abuse.

wisnaeme said...

"the low level of care was in itself abuse."

Thank you, that's about the best definition of it, I've come across.
Be it by private or public service providers engaged in the pursuit of profit or bean counters bending the ears of public authorities.
I see it so often within commercial companies engaged in profit wherein costs are cut, staff hours shortened but not their work load, corners cut leading to fatigue, stress, unhappiness or worse.

Come back the 1970's time and motion people ...all is forgiven.

subrosa said...

I've seen places like that too Delphius. One of those I volunteered in some years ago started putting people to bed at 6pm. I would start then and it took a few shifts to realise what was happening. One of the staff said when she was on night shift she had to start getting residents up at 6am in order to have everyone seated for breakfast at 8.30am.

subrosa said...

We used to ridicule the T & M folks wisnaeme, but you're right, they did a valuable job.

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