Letters: Care of the old on the brink of collapse

The following letters appear in the 11th November edition of the Independent

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Tuesday 10 November 2015 18:58

Your exposé of the state of private care homes (“Hedge fund attack threatens care home ‘meltdown’ ”, 7 November) includes a plea for the Government to increase funding for care to help defend a company against a US vulture fund. Yet this existing company is owned by City investors who acquired it in a “debt-fuelled takeover” that has left it crippled with high-interest debts.

The need for vastly better funding for local government for this and other purposes is not in doubt, but let’s not see it disappear into the maw of the City. Time to say “enough”. Let’s acknowledge that the privatisation model, rolled out early in the care home sector, has proved a disaster.

So what to do? First, we should stop the continuing privatisations, particularly of the NHS, by passing the NHS Reinstatement Bill, promoted by Green MP Caroline Lucas with cross-party support.

Then let’s look to models that might pick up the pieces from this mess, acknowledging that the state can borrow money at far lower cost than private companies, particularly those apparently content, as the current home owners are to pay 8 to 12 per cent interest rates.

Natalie Bennett

Green Party leader

London NW1

As a care provider for more than 25 years, I am seriously concerned about the future care of our oldest and most vulnerable residents.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is warning that four out of 10 care homes are not reaching the required standard. Some £4.6bn has been cut from social care budgets in recent years – no surprise that standards are falling.

The biggest provider of care homes, Four Seasons, is facing uncertainty and there are dire warnings that up to 9,000 care homes could close, tipped over the edge by the added costs of next year’s National Living Wage.

On top of all of this the CQC is proposing a huge hike in the fees care providers have to pay, adding another cost burden.

The Government says it has plans to deal with a major provider failure. I would love to know what they are.

The Government can avert this doomsday scenario and, for the first time in living memory, properly address the funding of social care in this month’s autumn spending review. If it doesn’t I hardly dare think of the consequences for anyone growing older in 21st-century Britain.

Mike Padgham

St Cecilia’s Care Services


The Government’s gross underfunding of social care causes severe hardship for a rising proportion of older people. There have never been so many very old and frail people in this country, yet social care is on the brink of collapse, with increasing numbers of people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, and even 90s, caring for frail family members with little or no support from community services.

We now have a “lost generation” of older people who, far from having a restful life, have a heavy and often distressing workload at a time when they also have increasing health and care needs. Many struggle to carry on for as long as possible since good residential care is so limited.

Unless the government faces the facts of an ageing population this miserable situation will only get worse. It is indefensible for a rich society to disregard such pressing needs among its 11 million older citizens. A government that believes otherwise is a government to be feared.

Paula Jones

London SW20

Climate change hits African farmers

In a recent study of people’s perception of climate change in The Gambia, it was reported to us that the rainy season had shortened by several weeks, leading to only one harvest of rice being possible, whereas 50 years ago three harvests were possible in a single rainy season.

Whereas the majority of rice consumption had been from local production, now 90 per cent is being imported from Thailand, India and Brazil, the transportation leading to greater climate change.

Salination of the Gambia river has moved dramatically upstream because of reduced rainfall leading to reduced flow in the river, impacting on the opportunities for irrigation.

In reporting this to the Department for International Development and asking what they were doing to persuade the relevant department in the UK government of the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and encourage the use of renewable sources of energy to mitigate the consequences of our behaviour on the poor in developing countries, the only response was how DfID is dealing with the impact of climate change in the countries in which it is working. Another example of the lack of joined up government?

Dr Nick Maurice

Director, The Marlborough Brandt Group

Marlborough, Wiltshire

It is quite extraordinary how the BBC is choosing to spin the latest news on climate change (“Halfway to climate disaster”, 10 November). The BBC’s science correspondent informed viewers that we are half way to 2 degrees of warming, the temperature level that is widely regarded as “safe” .

No reputable scientist thinks 2 degrees C is safe. Warming of 1.5 will flood low-lying areas. Two degrees is the point at which climate change becomes irreversible.

The carbon budget to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees C will be exhausted by 2040 at current emission rates. After that climate change will fuel its own progress through positive feed-back systems, notably methane releases from permafrost and the Arctic sea-bed, so the process becomes irreversible.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

As attention shifts to the Paris climate conference the buzz-word seems to be “climate justice”.

Of course it is right that poor nations who will suffer, or already are suffering, damage from climate change receive support, but the monetarisation of this important aspect of the talks (and the horse-trading that will ensue) threatens to overshadow the real goal, which is to reduce emissions.

Alan Mitcham


On the day when The Independent’s front-page headline reads “Halfway to climate disaster”, you also featured is a three-page article promoting the pleasures of meat-eating. Livestock production is the biggest contributor to global warming.

Keith O’Neill


Ever-closer union? Fine by me

It is dispiriting that the “In” campaign in the debate about UK membership of the EU is being carried out largely in economic terms. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Union since its EEC beginnings has been to curb the narrow nationalisms that plagued Europe in the first half of the 20th century and which have not gone away. It has inculcated a common political purpose among member states that is worth not only preserving but extending.

I have no problem with an “ever-closer union”, which so far has led to a genuine sense of compromise and willingness to work together among European nations. I would wish to see this process continue.

The EU has introduced many social and legal improvements which have benefited the population and which would be at risk from a “Brexit”. May we please shift the debate away from the economic balance sheet and highlight the political positives?

John Salt

Pinner, Middlesex

David Cameron has outlined his goals for reforming the UK’s membership of the EU, which he is submitting to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

In April Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the EU Commission, said he excluded major treaty changes as far as the freedom of movement is concerned in any renegotiation of our terms of membership of the EU.

Are both Mr Cameron and Mr Juncker engaging in doublespeak? And does Mr Cameron really believe that the electorate will be conned into the doublethink required to hold both these views?

I’m curious to know how Mr Cameron plans to ensure that the EU bureaucrats won’t renege on any agreement on renegotiated terms. But perhaps this will be immaterial to our politicians once we’ve voted to remain in the EU in the once-and-only referendum, and they have been awarded sinecures in the EU bureaucracy.

Angus McPherson

Findon, West Sussex

Top of the tennis tree?

The trophies clutched by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray after the Paris Masters (photograph, 9 November) must be given first and second prize for “most ludicrous trophy designs of the year”. Why is Djokovic holding a tree, or possibly a stag’s antlers? By contrast, Murray seems to be holding a giant Fox’s Glacier Mint (not a Murray Mint; do I detect a coded message here?).

Glynne Williams

London E17

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