Exclusive: Complaints about elderly care up by a third in a year following budget cuts
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Social Affairs Correspondent
Friday 11 April 2014
Elderly care in the UK is getting worse, according to new figures showing a dramatic rise in the number of people reporting that the quality of help given to their relatives is unacceptable.
The Good Care Guide, an online forum where the public can post honest opinions of care providers, has seen the proportion of negative reviews surge by a third in a year. In the first three months of last year, 19 per cent of all reviews posted on the site described care of the elderly services as “poor” or “bad”. In the same period this year, the proportion of negative reviews had leapt to 30 per cent.
The bad reviews give a shocking insight into the degrading and perfunctory “care” that many elderly people have been forced to accept.
One user of the site, David Ley, 54, Hampshire , wrote: “My mother was left alone in her room with food at the bottom of her bed that she could not see or indeed feed herself. She was not helped at all. She died after a month aged 90.”
Another user, describing the care received by her father, wrote: “He was extremely unhappy and was fearful of telling us what was wrong. He was threatened and bullied and verbally abused by a member of staff he was terrified of.”
Some of the most common complaints were about fleeting care visits, where helpers are told they have to be in and out of a person’s home within 15 minutes. The rise of these shorter appointments has coincided with cuts to budgets and many older people find them frightening and dehumanising, since they leave little time for niceties.
Experts believe that the Government’s squeezing of local authority budgets since 2010 is partly to blame for a decline in standards. They argue that the rising ageing population combined with massive cuts to budgets is contributing to a fall in quality as services slash costs.
Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said: “It’s monumentally hard to provide good quality when faced with rising demand, rising costs and less money. Politicians need to grasp the nettle. We need a public debate about how we can improve care.”
Care provided in people’s homes received the highest proportion of bad reviews on the site, with 31 per cent judging the quality of care “bad” or “poor”. A third of reviews also said the help delivered was poor value for money. Care homes only fared slightly better, with one in five given bad write-ups for poor care.
The shadow minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall MP, said: “Behind each one of these poor reviews is someone’s elderly mum or dad, or a son or daughter with a disability who is being badly let down. The huge increase in poor feedback provides yet more evidence of the growing crisis in care.”
Stephen Burke, chief executive of the Good Care Guide, said: “Care in this country is just under-funded and given the ageing population and public spending cuts it’s just going to get worse and worse.”
The Care and Support minister, Norman Lamb, said: “Action is already being taken to eliminate poor care – the CQC has brought in new rules so that it can crack down on bad services more effectively and we’re taking action so that company directors will be personally responsible for the quality of care their organisation provides.”
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