By Debbie le Quesne

‘Neighbourhood Watch’ for elderly

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Norman Lamb, the social care minister, has been thinking out of the box again. Dangerous stuff!

Reported in a national newspaper, he says local communities should set up “neighbourhood watch” groups to support elderly people living alone or needing help with everyday tasks.

Is this a way of making up the shortfall of care because of government cuts? He says not, but I’m not totally persuaded – these kind of initiatives worry me as I feel I’m be softened up for some more bad news.

In a speech due on Wednesday, the minister will insist he is not suggesting replacing “the safety net and essential care and support the NHS and local government provides, which is substantial and effective” (The Guardian quote).

The piece explains that a rapidly ageing of the population demands fresh thinking and action to meet growing care needs: “We have a grassroots movement to keep an eye on our neighbours’ houses and property to guard against crime. So what about one to guard against isolation?”

I’m all for communities engaging with our elderly – as a society I believe we are all the poorer for not honouring our elderly – but my concern is that domiciliary/community services should not be shored up by a volunteer Dad’s Army.

I hope there is no hidden agenda attached to the minister’s comments as he addresses, as the report puts it, “opportunities presented by the ageing society.”

Bridging the gap between generations, community spirit, volunteering . . . it all sounds a little too Churchillian for me.


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