CASE STUDY; Mother who was 'pawn in a game'

Health policy: MPs say present shortcomings show need for charter to govern long-term treatment of elderly patients
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Cyril Hudson's story is, he believes, "sadly all too common". A heart attack left his mother unable to cope in her flat nearly four years ago, and, with the help of social workers, her son chose a home from a list they gave him, writes Glenda Cooper.

Mr Hudson and his sister thought that their mother still had significant funds from the sale of her house some years before. But in fact the rent had swallowed most of it up.

"I applied to the DSS for income support and they came up with the maximum available which was pounds 240 a week, but I had to make up the deficit which added up to pounds 5,000 a year," he said.

Mr Hudson's mother Violet is one of the elderly still funded by the DSS because she was in a home before April 1993.

Income support has not risen at the same level as her home fees, leaving her son to make up the shortfall. The select committee wants the Department of Health to question health authorities on how widespread the problem is. sMr Hudson struggled to make up the deficit from his earnings and his own savings. But then he was made redundant from his job.

"I was told by social services that until my mother was actually evicted by the home they couldn't step in and do anything." he said. "Once she was out, then they would be responsible, put her back in and make up the difference."

So a running dispute started between Mr Hudson and the owner of Mrs Hudson's home. Mr Hudson refused to pay more than the minimum pounds 240. The owner had the choice to accept that or evict her.

"It's been very traumatic. The strain was contributory to losing my job," he said. "I've finished up in front of a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist."

Matters came to a head on 31 October when the owner finally served notice to quit. It was finally resolved by moving Mrs Hudson to a smaller room which costs less, making her what her son calls "a captive prisoner". "There's a poker game going on between the Government and the nursing homes and old people are the pawns," he said.