By Debbie le Quesne

Facts the Telegraph Justice for Elderly campaign overlooked

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The Telegraph – bastion of what we often believe to be proper journalism – has in recent time fired a broadside at the care industry in a new campaign.

A report headlined ‘Elderly at risk at hundreds of care homes’ graced its pages in at the tailend of last year with a warning that more than 500 care homes and services for the elderly put frail residents at risk.

The reason: Because staff were just not good enough, the paper claimed.

The Telegraph ammunition comes from new figures from industry regulator the Care Quality Commission.

Let me quote the figures: “. . .of the 5,332 care homes and home-help services assessed in the last 12 months, 522 failed to meet the most basic legal standards for staffing.”

Journalists Tim Ross, John Bingham and Patrick Sawer then conclude (care of the CQC) that “tens of thousands of elderly and disabled adults across England are being looked after by workers who are not properly trained, have no relevant experience, or in some cases may even have criminal records.”

The Telegraph cites among its Justice for the Elderly campaign that it aims to ensure care staff are properly trained and licensed, properly trained, better regulated, and for the establishing of a “highly publicised care advice service.”

This latest news comes just a few days after more than 60 residents were evacuated from Merok Park Care Home, in Banstead, after the Commission shut it down.

As a seasoned campaigner and provider of tools for care excellence, I applaud any initiative to bring justice to the vulnerable, elderly of society. But I’m alarmed, though not surprised, by the scaremongering of such campaigning journalism.

Clearly The Telegraph has invested heavily into this work with three writers on the case.

I am therefore surprised that a more rounded and balanced approach has not been taken.

However we interpret the data, the fact remains that care and nursing homes, special needs and dementia care, and community care providers deliver many cameos of excellence across the UK.

The article fails to address the current whirlwind of mandatory training and assessment for carers covering dignity, safeguarding, first aid, health and safety, food hygiene, manual handling, mental capacity, issues of law and infection prevention to name but a few.

And of course, those providers with specialised interests would be expected to furnish the proper knowledge to staff to enable them to work fin the best care interest of their charges. For example, care staff in a dementia home would be expected to have relevant training.

I am surprised too that no mention is made of the new Care Certificate which has been introduced and will be mandatory for all care staff from April 1 next year.

I’m left asking: How much more skill education can we possibly deliver?

The Telegraph doubtless concludes that informing readers of such a wealth of training out there has no place in its article. Indeed, the decanting of such facts into its readership may even get them questioning the tone of the copy. Sadly, with so much bad publicity aimed at the care sector, I believe the general public is becoming anaesthetised to the sensationalism of this kind of work. With the Press crying wolf at every possible opportunity for a juicy care headline it would do well to consider that its own integrity may well be eroded as well as that of its victims.


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