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By Debbie le Quesne

Posts Tagged ‘care

This is music to the ears

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Barbara Martin hasn’t played the piano for over 50 years.

Arthritis had crippled her fingers and tinkling the ivories seemed only a distant dream. That was until she received support from a student occupational therapist.

I caught this story in the trade press and it truly brightened my day.

A music lover from a young age, Connors House resident, Barbara, used to enjoy all things symphonic from playing the piano to singing in choirs.

With family life keeping her busy, she stopped playing years ago, and now, after two strokes and developing arthritis, she never thought she would play again.

Care Industry News, the online trade magazine, reports: “Barbara has recently been working with an occupational therapist student called Corin, who is on a placement from Canterbury Christ Church University. Together, the pair has been working on strengthening Barbara’s hands and fingers, through a range of activities and tools.

“Music is my passion,” Barbara says, “I can clearly remember singing around the piano as a family when I was younger, my children and grandchildren were all musical too. My first date with my husband, John, was to the BBC Proms! Corin and I got talking and I told him about my love for music and the piano.

“I honestly never even dreamt I would play the piano again. I always used to play Beethoven’s Für Elise and now I can’t believe I can play it again. Corin was so patient with me and has really helped my confidence grow, although I’m not ready to play for other people just yet. When I’m sitting in that big empty room and I can feel the sound coming from my fingers, it really is music to my ears. I can barely believe it is me playing it, it’s a real sense of achievement.”

How wonderful is this story! It’s a delightful antidote to so much gloom in the sector and again a great example of care excellence. Good care does exist. It tends to be only the media that fails to find it.

 

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New PM downgrades care minister’s role

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Theresa May has an unenviable challenge. We have the Brexit issue, the unstable British economy, welfare issues, immigration problems . . . and social care all clamoring for her attention.

What’s going on, I ask. The minister of Care responsibilities have been downgraded and are now the remit of a parliamentary under-secretary. It’s the first time in eight years this has happened and I’m hugely disappointed.

The news appears to have caught the imagination of only a few journalists, but not surprisingly, the ones at the Guardian.

“This downgrade comes at a time when there is acceptance that social care is in crisis and there is unprecedented demand on care services,” I read in the paper’s online columns.

And the article points out the obvious. As we live longer and have more complex needs in later life, it is crucial that social care remains high on the political agenda.

The downgrading appears to suggest otherwise – this is now a post on the bottom rung of the ministerial ladder. I was hoping that things would be so much better with Mrs May.

According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, to maintain care at the same level as last year would require more than an extra £1.1bn. But the National Audit Office, says the Guardian, has previously reported that councils increasingly pay less than the actual cost of the care provided.

Here we beat the same old drum: It is not a financially viable a situation.

Additional pressure on care provider budgets comes with the Living Wage and the fact that demand for care is only going to increase.

Jane Ashcroft is chief executive of Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of care and housing for older people, writes: “With a rising population and longer life expectancy, the number of people over 65 is set to rise by more than 40 per cent in the next 17 years.

“This will take the number of older people in the UK from 11.4 million to more than 16 million. This demographic change is welcome; it signals improving living conditions and advances in medicine. But if the funding of services is not updated for these new demands, we are undoubtedly heading towards an age of suffering and loneliness for older people.”

Rightly so she calls for a minister of state role – “someone with the power to make real change.”

I fully understand that good social care reduces the financial burden on NHS care. It cuts hospital admissions and heads off expensive health troubles with our vulnerable and elderly. Critically, it can also cut hospital bed blocking.

According to Ashcroft these combined woes cost the taxpayer £820m a year.

Can we have our minister back please. I think we need one, urgently. The downgrading of this portfolio is a huge step in the wrong direction.

 

The haves and have-nots: Bizarre economics of care

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The UK care home sector is losing managers and failing to replace them, that was what LaingBuisson was telling the media more than 12 months ago. And guess what, it’s not changed today.

The shrinking pool of talent for the top jobs with providers of elderly care is driving manager salaries to new heights.

In the latest data I have to hand it says new-build homes are offering in excess of £60,000 a year for managers.

That means with the additional costs of National Insurance employer contributions, pension payments and other sweeteners, the source cost for providers is rapidly approaching £100,000, and a bonus scheme can easily tip this even higher.

Of course, we wouldn’t expect to see these figures being paid amongst many of our members and it’s not because they are mean employers. It’s a simple case of economics: There’s just not enough money in the pot as the region is too poor.

It’s a fact that many of the lager corporates operate in much more affluent areas than the West Midlands and unlike many here, their main trench of income is from private payers. Most of my members survive on council-funded placements and it’s their primary source of income.

Austerity measures is seeing the industry becoming increasingly polarised – the haves and have-nots.

In May last year, according to LaingBuisson Recruitment co-founder James Rumfitt, the residential care sector as a whole was struggling to find managers of competence.

I am not surprised.

According to the healthcare consultant’s Care Home Pay Survey – second edition, the average care home manager salaries at the beginning of 2015 were up 4.2 per cent above the previous year.

This was incredible 49 per cent higher than salaries seen a decade ago. Compared to an increase of just 24 per cent in median full-time employee earnings in the UK economy as a whole, it’s an eye-watering hike.

Isn’t it odd, the general care market is in turmoil, yet the economic dynamics of a shortage of good managers, pushes up their salaries at the top end of care provision. Supply and demand are hard masters.

While there will always be those who can afford private care payments and thus fund very generous salaries for the elite operators, there will be many more people receiving care on local authority rates only. Their care providers, where pay rates remain anchored to the Living Wage, will not have the privilege of top-ups to fund such salary extravagance..

But I must say this: The care I have seen in some of our struggling homes has been exemplary. Plush surroundings, teas on the terrace, matching furnishings and expensive, oak flooring, does not necessarily equate to excellence in care.

What is it about never judging a book by its cover . . .

 

Osborne’s social care cash ‘used to balance books’

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In any other scenario, you’d expect legal exchanges and the Press to be shouting ‘scandal’ from front pages.

But this is the care sector – often unde-gunned and always under-funded.

It’s incredulous, but has been claimed by reliable sources, that funds being raised by Dudley Council to shore up the costs of social care are to be used to help balance the books on the previous year’s overspend.

Under Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to fund care sector needs, he sanctioned a two per cent hike in council taxes during the Spending Review last November.

But it emerged at an emergency members’ meeting of the West Midlands Care Association, which represents private and charitable care providers, the new monies will have no impact on the current industry crisis that has seen 1,000 social care beds lost across the country since January.

Neither will there be any new monies generated for social care from Mr Osborne’s 2016 Budget proposals.

Hopes that he would heed calls by the Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) to bring forward £700m of social care funding never materialised.

Sadly, the outlook can only get worse as care providers struggle to make ends meet.

The West Midlands Care Association understands 50 per cent of the public in Dudley agree with the Chancellor’s precept of two per cent in the belief that it will help adults requiring social care packages to continue to receive them in a sustainable way.

But the truth is that the two per cent is just not enough and is being directed towards last year’s accounts shortfall.

How can they get away with this?

There are no provision margins from such funding for the current financial year.

A packed meeting at the Quality Hotel, Dudley, delegates from across the Midlands, heard the next three to four years would be “critical to the survival of social care as we know it.”

For the last nine years fees have fallen below the viable cost of running a care home.

Figures from Industry analysts LaingBuisson reveal English councils pay on average £91 a week less than what is needed to provide fully compliant care.

I’m sure the survival rate will tumble very soon as the living wage outlays start to hit home and the number of private funders, who shore up the shortfalls on the cost of care being paid for by local authorities, remain static.

At best, I believe, we have three to four years before the landscape of care changes beyond recognition and there will be no way back to the required bed levels our ageing population needs to provide some kind of fluid service to hospital discharge managers wanting to avoid bed blocking.

In a desperate attempt to secure a funding lifeline to the industry, MPs, councillors, local authority officers and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have been asked to meet with us to discuss ring-fenced funding for social care. It’s the only way we’ll ever see any monies decanted from Government.

The vast majority of Black Country care businesses rely on placements paid for by councils as a primary income generator. More than 26,300 people across the region are receiving residential care. A similar number have care at home.

In September last year my association revealed Dudley Social services had given rises totalling 8.9 per cent over a five year period while, the Consumer Prices Index was at 11.6 per cent, the Retail Price Index at 15 per cent and wage rises hitting 12.3 per cent.

I’m wholly persuaded our local authorities understand the dilemma, but are working under a Government that is hopelessly adrift of reality.

 

 

Beware the dodgy online home reviews

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TripAdvisor is an easy, accessible way of getting the lowdown on dining, cheap flights hotels and holiday destinations.

This layman’s approach to reviewing and sharing experiences has caught the imagination of the UK public and often is a first point of call to see how good – or bad – things can get.

But what about reviews for care homes? A report in the online magazine, care Industry News, informs us that after engaging constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), websites including carehome.co.uk, Care Opinion and Most Recommended Care, have all agreed to tidy up their practices.

These improvements address concerns that were raised following a “call for information” by the CMA on online reviews and endorsements.

Let me quote the article: “A cross comparison with the Care Quality Commission suggests that ‘award’ winning care providers had in many cases received rather more negative inspection results. It makes absolute sesne that when people are searching for care; they are able to see transparent results just as they would if choosing a car.”

Oh dear . . .

Mark Sadler Founder of yourcarehome.co.uk and Hootvox.com advises readers to “look very carefully at how reviews are gathered and how stars and ratings are calculated, you cannot take anything on face value.”

Sad isn’t it?

The article can be found at : http://careindustrynews.co.uk/2016/02/care-home-reference-sites-agree-to-improve-transparency-for-those-looking-for-care/   Well worth a read.

 

For me, this whole business is frustrating. I spend most of my time passionately supporting the cause for good residential care and I like to think my comments are full of integrity.

Care home reviews are powerful marketing tools, an issue that the Government has addressed with www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Care-home-with-nursing/Halesowen/Results/576/-2.051/52.45/1831/9261?distance=25

I don’t know what the traffic is on this site, but it desperately needs to be used more.

My advice: Always visit the home in the first instance – just drop in unannounced and note the response well. Then take a look at the reviews.

Some interesting comments come from Andrew Mabbutt, CEO of the feedback platform Feefo, Quote: “While improving practises is always a good step, unless reviews are collected by a trusted, independent third party, there is always the danger that they cannot be trusted.

Incidentally, Feefo provide a closed feedback system for both online and offline businesses. They invite only verified customers to leave their feedback, and ensure that they are unmoderated. This rules out any possibility of fakes, or sweeping negative reviews under the rug.”

Dear me! The care sector really isn’t very good at getting its own PR right.

The CMA’s call for information highlighted a number of general concerns about the review sector, including the potential for some review websites’ practices to prevent some genuine negative reviews from being published, some review websites not checking reviews sufficiently at all, and important information relating to poor CQC inspection results not being brought to the attention of the users of some websites.

 

 

 

Read this, be inspired, be encouraged

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Every now and then I realise afresh why I do my job. Encouragement is a powerful force as I’m reminded, in the words of novelist George Eliot, it’s never too late to be what you might have been.

I have just finished reading a great online piece by Ewan King,

director of business development and delivery at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (see www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2015/sep/29/despite-finance-troubles-and-media-blame-its-not-all-bad-news-in-social-care).

Acknowledging the care sector is not in its finest hour, King writes: “My grandfather was a minister in the Church of Scotland, and he used to say to his congregation: ‘We must not succumb to hopelessness.’ It was his way of saying that we have to focus on the positives even when times are tough.”

King adds social care is perilously close to “succumbing to hopelessness”, yet despite unremittingly negative news, there are still remarkably good things happening in social care. Oh yes there are!

What I like about this article is that it is earthed in reality and the fears and dire warnings surrounding the care business are genuinely recognised.

Radical changes have not all been bad, he notes, encouraging “it is important to shout loudly about what is working well.”

A whole list of heartening examples follows and as pointed out, they are “the tip of the iceberg.”

King’s words are worth five minutes over coffee. Despite the gloom, media blame, financial turmoil, it’s not all bad. Go on, click the link, be inspired! and if you want more, do a quick search on my blog on the wedding.

Running blind without research into social care

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What a surprise! Austerity measures have created a problem with councils’ ability to carry out research in adult social care.

I read one of the 104 respondents’ comments to the survey which said: “People who supported research and evidence-based decisions have been made redundant.”

Another claimed: “Research in ASC [adult social care] was the first thing to be cut as it is seen as non-essential and will continue to be cut in favour of services and care packages.”

The study, commissioned by the Personal Social Services Research Unit but carried out by the Social Services Research Group, clearly seems to state the obvious as councils struggle to balance their books. We know already that local authorities are between a rock and a hard place.

Focussing on survival mechanics, however, always comes at a price. Expendable research? Probably not, though I’m well aware that duplication is a major problem in the industry and I can understand if local authorities can lock into other information streams their decision-making process on these redundancies.

Without research we have no way of knowing the how and why services are delivered and what difference they make

Without research how can we accurately set budgets and map for the future?

It needs to be done by someone. Without research we are running blind. Finally, can someone tell me please why such few numbers of me ever go into residential care?