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By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for the ‘Age UK.’ Category

Crisis care letter follow-up swamped by Trump headlines

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I see the Select Committee chairs have sent a frank letter to Theresa May urging action to tackle the social care crisis. Their biggest fear, it appears, is that the Brexit circus will crowd out ‘domestic policy.’

Not a chance, I say.

There’s only one headline maker out there at the moment and that’s the Prime Minister’s new American ‘friend’, Donald Trump.

I can recall my seniors shouting at the television, offering running commentary on everything from the news and football referee decisions to the latest saga with long-departed Ena Sharples of Coronation Street.

This weekend I was almost doing the same as Trump seemed to fill every waking hour of newsfeed time. Of course, I’m not decrying that his game-changer on the world stage is not newsworthy, but . . . on home soil the critical nature of the social/NHS care latest seems to have fallen below the radar.

Mrs May must still be under a deal of pressure over the correspondence from three of the most influential Commons select committees urging her to seek a rapid cross-party consensus on the “immense challenge” of paying for health and social care in the future.

But the media frenzy has now a new focus and she must be secretly breathing a sigh of relief – albeit for a just a little while.

The letter – sent jointly by the Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, of the health committee, Labour MP Meg Hillier, of the public accounts committee and Clive Betts, also a Labour MP, of the communities and local government committee, highlights fears that pressing issues at home are being put on the back burner.

“We are calling for a new political consensus to take this forward,” the letter reads (Guardian). “This needs to be done swiftly so that agreement can be reflected in the next spending round.”

The MPs maintain that any review should target both the health and social care systems, warning that separation of the two is “creating difficulties for individuals and avoidable barriers and inefficiencies”.

Not surprisingly, Mrs May was accused of failing to grasp the scale of the challenge, after the chancellor Philip Hammond ignored the care sector in his autumn statement last November.

And then of course, we had the announcement from Downing Street that local authorities would be able to increase taxers to sort out short-term needs. Bit of a knee-jerk response to associations like mine, I suspect.

The political consensus appears to put the blame for everything at the Brexit door. As the Guardian reported: “The intellectual energy will go into Brexit, the most ambitious civil servants will want to be in the Brexit departments; it will just be the focus of everything.”

The letter concludes: “In short, the problem is widely recognised – we now need political agreement so that a solution for the long term can be found. For our part we shall do what we can to contribute to a consensus. We look forward to hearing from you.”

Backing for the letter has come from The King’s Fund and the Local Government Association.

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As the Red Cross intervene with the NHS, what will it take force a social care lifeline?

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The other Saturday I watched the television news with a stunned sense of disbelief as the chief executive of the British Red Cross announced the NHS was in the middle of a “humanitarian crisis”.

I’d never thought of the Red Cross intervening in UK affairs in such a way – don’t the images of this worthy, brave orgaisation invade our news from far flung places where there’s famine and the ravages of conflict? Not any more it seems.

To hear its top man, Mike Adamson, explaining exactly what defines a humanitarian crisis and that it’s is now in England, stopped me in my tracks.

His definition was along the lines of . . .

“It affects many people over a prolonged period of time, something of threat to their health or wellbeing. Just think about the situation of someone, for example, waiting on a trolley in and A&E department for several hours, perhaps with no family around them after a fall, probably quite frightened. . . .”

The warning came as it emerged two patients died in the same A&E department within a week during “extremely busy” periods.

In December A&E department shut their doors 140 times and now cancer ops are being cancelled, I read in the newspapers.

Mr Adamson added extra cash was needed for health and social care to make the system sustainable.

What was that? Extra cash for social care. Indeed!

Sadly, at the root of the NHS crisis is a failing social care . . . and we have warned for years that it was terribly broken. They would not listen, and I’m not convinced they are listening now.

The official response from the NHS is predictable: What crisis? And this still remains the official line.

I find it odd that hospitals like Russells Hall, Dudley, is allegedly paying a company to try to help sort out their funding, either by pressurising care homes to drop their fees, or getting patients’ families to become fiscally involved. Surely this could never catch on after the government’s stalled attempt to get the public to invest in care insurance policies. The elephant in the room, of course, is a properly functioning social care system. Everyone knows it. The government, however, steadfastly refuses to acknowledge it.

Mr Adamson explained: “The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.

“We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds.” Called in by whom? I suspect the Department of Health.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it was “staggering” that the Red Cross had been drafted in to help. I think so too, though I would add that his Government did precious little to grasp the nettle of social care during its term.

Of course, there’s much politicking to be had over this development in the care saga so we need to focus on facts.

Just about a year ago bed blocking was costing the NHS about £820 million per year.

Last summer the National Audit Office said delays in discharging patients from hospitals in England had risen by nearly a third over two years. Delayed transfers (bed blocking) have not improved and there’s a resigned approach that’s punching through that deeply disturbs me.

Across England, the audit office found that for every 100 beds, three days of use were taken by patients who no longer needed to be in hospital between March 2015 and February 2016.

Quite what 2017 analytics will deliver terrifies me, because it is in direct correlation to the ability of social care to unblock beds – something it can no longer do. And we all know the reasons why.

The question now is this: Exactly what will it take for the Government to intervene? Will it deliver the much-needed financial lifeline to social care, which could not only rescue struggling care providers, but also our hospitals and . . . dare I say, those people who need either one or both of those services,

 

 

Autumn Statement: My utter disbelief

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Like millions of others, I listened to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in a stunned disbelief that after unprecedented pressure he failed to deliver on social care.

Secretly, I’d been hopeful that, as ITV put it, this vital area of funding would be Philip Hammond’s “rabbit out of the hat.”

But the man, who is privileged to represent the constituents of one of the wealthiest areas in the UK, said absolutely nothing on the issue so many of us were pinning our hopes on.

As the Prime Minister pointed out in PMQ’s, local authorities have been allowed to raise council tax by 2% to help plug the funding gap. But, especially in poorer areas where council tax receipts are low, the “social care precept” has barely touched the sides.

The irony of it all I find was in the closing comment calling it a plan that “provides help to those who need it now.”

On what plant does this Chancellor live?

It was no surprise that leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn chose to focus on health and social care as he took on the Prime Minister in the Commons before the Autumn Statement.

But is set a stage of clear demarcation – between reality and Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Love him or hate him, Corbyn urged the Government to plug the gap and address the “stress and fear” it causes.

Unremittingly bleak, social care providers have done an amazing job in recent years without the central funding to sustain long-term credible business models.

Local authorities have also been forced to pare provision back, to in the opinion of many, dangerous levels.

For six years there have been unprecedented cuts to LA budgets, with figures suggesting those people eligible for council-funded care falling by 25 per cent.

Teresa May’s almost apologetic herald for the mini-budget of gloom was found in her comment: “We can only afford to pay for the NHS and social care if we have a strong economy”.

My life! This is another George Osborne in this key role.

Well, Mr Hammond, may I congratulate you on your sheer brilliance in ignoring perhaps the most pressing social dilemma since the introduction of the Three-day Week in 1974.

Predictions of “looming chaos” were rejected by the Chancellor.

Philip Hammond said a previously announced NHS funding commitment was in line with what its leaders had wanted.

Health and social care leaders are reeling and unanimous in their condemnation.

Now the Treasury has made its stand, with Mr Hammond confirming that ministers would be sticking with departmental spending announced last year, the official unraveling of social care can begin.

In a new briefing published ahead of the Autumn Statement on 23 November, the Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust analysed the state of health and social care finances, concluding that cuts and rising demand will leave adult social care facing a £1.9 billion funding gap next year.

What a cynical approach to well-founded information in the care sector we have witnessed. Is this bordering on criminal neglect . . . interesting thought.

And finally (for now): For once I am in a position to sympathise with the local authorities in the West Midlands and particularly Birmingham which is £50million in the red already this year.

No lifeline, the extra burden of the living wage  . .  and effectively an abandonment of responsibility for those in need and their care providers. In the industrial West Midlands  there simply are not enough self-funders to keep the sector afloat and bolster the care of those people funded by their local councils.

A budget for the JAM people (just about managing), Mr Hammond. Not in my world, Sir.

 

 

 

 

– Debbie LeQuesne CEO

Pressure mounts on Chancellor for more cash

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Last month Theresa May’s claims that the government is putting £10bn extra into health was challenged by five MPs. led by the Conservative Dr Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health select committee.

The impact of not enough money for hospitals and access to social care are written for all to see in rising demand for A&E and missed waiting time targets.

Clearly there are complex reasons that, according to some sources, delayed transfer of care lost 192,000 hospital bed days. But the downgrading of social care in government agendas must be a primary cause.

I am led to understand some NHS number-crunchers believe the real number of people in hospital who should be being cared for in the community is probably four times as many as represented the figures here.

The pressure really is on Mr Hammond to deliver in his Autumn Statement.

Rising costs, the ageing population, difficulties recruiting staff and years of central government reducing its grant have left the service in crisis, the Local Government Association claims.

Surely, there is an unprecedented agreement that social care should be at the very top of the list of Mr Hammond’s priorities for urgent extra funding.

The triple whammy of shrinking budgets, rising demand and the cost of paying the national living wage to care workers has left many councils paring back more and more on care costs.

I’m led to believe that in Walsall last week there were 138 people waiting to leave hospital. There is enough capacity in the region to take them all, but . . . there is not the money to start the funding of new packages.

Before winter pressures kick in we understand discharge managers are looking to get all those people back in the community and free  100 beds for winter. Sadly, if all of those perceived admissions required care in the community or step-down residential beds we’re in trouble. There simply is not the capacity.

Mr Hammond is being urged by senior Tories to give the crumbling care system a double boost in his autumn statement, amid growing alarm that social care and the NHS will be unable to cope with demand this winter.

Rumours suggest that Mr Hammond is examining a plan to plough between £700m and £1.5bn extra into social care services from April to help reduce numbers of older people being admitted to hospital.

Apparently, he is also considering letting councils raise the amount they can add to council tax bills to fund social care through a precept introduced in April, currently capped at two percent.

We’ll see . . .

The LGA has made known that years of cuts to town-hall budgets have left the sector in crisis, with fewer people getting help with basics such as washing and eating at a time when need is rising.

Also, care homes are closing, partly because councils cannot afford high enough fees to allow operators – whose costs have risen because of the national living wage – to make a profit.

Putting further funds into social care, will I’m sure, indirectly relieve some of the difficulties being encountered by the NHS; not lest helping to facilitate a more efficient discharge of patients.

 

Songaminute Man boosts Alzheimer’s Charity by £130,000

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The story of Songaminute Man Ted McDermott is to be published in a book next year, I read in my local evening newspaper.

The heart-warming tale will be taken into the Harper Collins UK stable and should be for sale next year, according to the article.

Ted, the inspirational 80-year-old suffers from Alzheimer’s, but became an internet sensation when his son Simon, 40, uploaded a video of them to You Tube singing Quando, Quando, Quando in the car as they drove around Blackburn in May.

The video went viral and was watched around the world. Recent reports suggest that so fat £130,00 has been raised for the Alzheimer’s Society from Ted’s subsequent recording deal with Decca.

In a BBC report Simon said they had received messages from all over the world in a whirlwind few months.

Recently Simon and Ted were rewarded for their achievement with the Pride of Britain Award for Special Recognition.

The oldest of 14 children, Ted worked as a Redcoat and was a regular on the local club and pub circuit.

For me it’s the ultimate feel-good homegrown story where good old-fashioned talent is fused with digital technology and has literally coined in thousands for such a worthy cause.

I know I blogged on this last month, but the running total of monies raised was an ideal opportunity for me to lift my spirits (and hopefully others too) by revisiting this lovely cameo of humanity.

 

 

Written by debbielq

November 21, 2016 at 12:31 pm

The importance of helping carers to keep working

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I often blog about care providers and those employed by them, but I’d like to focus on another group of care workers who are equally important – the unpaid, part-timers who generally tend for family.

Looking after loved-ones with long-term conditions is something I have witnessed first hand – the compromises, the relentless selflessness and, critically, trying to juggle work and failing.

A new report from Age UK and Carers UK, Walking the Tightrope finds that more than ten hours caring per week can stretch to breaking point an older worker’s ability to remain in employment.

How do people manage? How did I mange? Somehow we do.

And those caring for even five hours a week tend to pass up opportunities for promotion or overtime with a knock-on effect on retirement income and savings, the report states.

‘Doing the right thing’ can undermine a worker’s financial security.

According to Age UK and Carers UK, the impact of caring is not felt equally across all socio-economic groups. Those in higher skilled occupations such as managerial or professional roles are often more likely to be able to make smaller reductions in their working hours than those in lower skilled groups.

But the lack of affordable quality social care options, inflexible employers and poor work practices can drive carers out of employment.

The guy we use for our media, John Nash, has for nearly 30 years juggled work and care for a wife with MS.

In the early years he worked for a compassionate company who embraced the problem with him, offered flexible working arrangements, time off for medical appointments and a sympathetic ear at director level.

But it changed suddenly and overnight he was, in his own words, “working for dispassionate strangers” who insisted all hospital appointments should be taken as whole days of holiday entitlement instead of lieu days owing and essentially flexibility just vaporised.

Overnight, he found himself within a regimented regime in which he could no longer fulfill the necessary care duties required of him. Redundancy was his only real option.

But as they say, for every cloud . . . he now runs his own consultancy and we have a great working relationship with him.

This example (John has given permission for publication) is the tip of the iceberg.

Older workers are most likely to be carers and to be providing more hours of care, and they face particular difficulties.  The evidence indicates that the more hours of caring that are undertaken, the greater the impact on employment. This was so true of my experience and John’s too.

Excellent community care now enables John to continue to work – hardly surprising he is a champion of the direct funding model.

This new focus group research also highlights the profoundly negative psychological and emotional effects of withdrawing from the workplace.

It found many older carers experience increased feelings of loneliness and isolation following withdrawal from paid employment.

The Age UK/Carers UK report estimates that carers leaving employment is a substantial drain on the public purse; almost £1.3 billion a year when the costs of Carer’s Allowance and lost tax revenues on foregone incomes are taken into account.

Enabling people to successfully combine work with caring makes sense on an individual level, but the business case is also compelling.

The report estimates that supporting carers to stay in work could add an additional £5.3 billion a year to the economy.

Employers also lose out if talented and experienced employees leave work prematurely or are less able to do their job because of the demands on them.

What can be done to support those with caring responsibilities to remain in work?  The Carers in Employment (CIE) project, funded by the Department of Health, Department of Work and Pensions and the Equalities Unit is looking for answers.

This two-year learning and development programme which started in April 2015 is managed by SCIE. Pilots are funded to explore the different ways this challenge can be met.

The CIE programme is being evaluated by the Institute of Employment Studies to ascertain what works to support carers to remain in or to return to work. It reports in 2017.

Can you imagine what changes could happen if our domcare providers could get the funding we believe they deserve. Better care? Yes. A chance for workplace involvement for volunteer carers? Yes.

Alas I think I’m dreaming.

 

Written by debbielq

September 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm