Human rights expert urges action on ‘failing’ social care

How can we help you?

Your enquiry will be reviewed with no obligation.

Human rights expert urges action on ‘failing’ social care

3rd January 2012

A human rights and community care specialist has echoed calls for reform of the ‘failing’ social care system in England which experts say is leaving 800,000 elderly people ‘lonely, isolated and at risk.’

Mark McGhee, an expert in cases involving Mental Health and Human Rights legislation at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that failure to meet the ongoing challenge of an ageing population would result in continuing cases of abuse and neglect.

“The appalling and ‘systematic failures’ in parts of the care system paint a truly damning portrayal of the state of social care in this country,” said Mark, a partner at the firm. “Basic council-funded care for the elderly in their own homes is so bad in some areas it is breaching their human rights and it is crucial that local authorities understand this.”

Mark was speaking after a letter published in the Daily Telegraph written by a number of government advisers, charity directors and independent experts called for action to secure ‘urgent, fundamental and lasting reform.’

“Put simply, we are failing to support the increasing number of people who need care,” said Mark. “Without action we will continue to see further examples of the kind of shocking abuse and neglect that the Equality and Human Rights Commission report uncovered last year.”

The report - which was partly based on the testimonies of over a thousand older people together with their families and friends - revealed a catalogue of failings including physical and financial abuse, chronic neglect and a woeful disregard for client’s dignity and standards of privacy when performing intimate tasks, leaving them feeling ‘dehumanised’ and ‘stripped of self-worth.’

“The findings of this report illustrate in the starkest possible terms just how urgently the social care system in this country needs to be completely reformed from improving the pay, training and qualifications of ‘carers,’ to better regulation, scrutiny and monitoring of care providers,” said Mark.

“Of the 2m elderly people with care needs, an estimated 800,000 are being left without basic care leaving particularly the vulnerable, chronically depressed and/or stressed, stripped of their dignity and contemplating suicide,” he added. “It is simply staggering that in this day and age those most vulnerable in society are being treated this way.”

The report recommended greater legal protection for older people calling for the law to be extended so that loopholes - which meant clients who received care from the voluntary and private sectors were left unprotected from the Human Rights Act which currently only covers care offered by councils - could be closed. The report also called for an end to councils reducing carer’s hours after highlighting the fact that some elderly people were only allocated as little as 15 minutes of home care.

Although half of those asked to give evidence in the home care review reported real satisfaction with their care, many others revealed numerous and commonly heard complaints that the commission said were in breach of various parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, including not being given enough to eat and drink, theft of money including consistent financial abuse over a period of time, patronising behaviour by staff such as speaking on mobile phones while tending to clients, physical abuse including unnecessary physical force, shoving and rough handling as well as a chronic disregard for client’s privacy and dignity.

“The government is cutting funding for older people’s social care by £1.3bn this parliament,” said Mark. “These cuts are quite simply pushing the system to breaking point. One in three councils have already cut their home care spending and one in five are planning to. Eight out of ten councils are now only providing care for those with substantial and critical needs and it is crucial people understand that without urgent reform these services are just going to get worse.

“The government needs to act to protect elderly people by closing existing loopholes in the law to ensure that any care commissioned by local authorities or by other public bodies is encompassed by the Human Rights Act,” added Mark. “Reforming social care is the biggest public policy challenge the country faces and it is vital the opportunity to reform the system is not squandered. In addition, money, resources and training need to be injected into the system, care providers need to be inspected and standards of care provided to the elderly need to be constantly monitored and scrutinised.”

Read more: BBC