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By Debbie le Quesne

Posts Tagged ‘sheltered housing

Chance to have a say as Burstow heads new commission on care

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Informed choices need, by definition, good information – knowledge has the power to change our lives, increase the quality of human experience, create new environments and realise our dreams.

That same information can help us get beyond problems that challenge us – even in the embattled care sector.

In one of his more lucid moments, former USA president, Ronald Reagan, said “information is the oxygen of the modern age.”

Former health care minister, the Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow, is chairing a commission on the future of residential care for thinktank Demos. Over the course of a year, the commission will be developing a vision for the sector fit for the 21st century – a brave, but essential challenge.

And by locking into the Guardian newspaper’s Social Care Network, we get the chance as network members to quiz himon how to reform residential care.

In his latest health role, he is looking at how to we can bring social care into an environment where there is increased pressures and demands while public spending is falling.

The commission will take a look at how to learn from and share good practice in the sector. Oh to be a fly on the wall as this enterprise gets rolling!

The Guardian has announced: “Before the commission publishes its findings this summer, Mr Burstow has agreed to answer Social Care Network members’ questions on the future of the sector in a video interview later this month.”

My head is buzzing with so many questions, I really don’t know where to begin.

Questions can be tweeted – @GdnSocialCare – or emailed to socialcare@theguardian.com.

This is a golden opportunity to share your thoughts and fears and help shape share the commissioners’ recommendations.

Personally, I find the Guardian Social Care Network (Sign up for free here) a fantastic source of information. We have an opportunity to have our say – let’s do it . . . please!

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Landmark care laws for Wales and . . . the Budget

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A landmark Bill which aims to revolutionise how social services are delivered in Wales passed its final Assembly hurdle this week.

It represents a huge shake-up of care and for those who know me well, I have high regard for the Welsh – they know a thing or two.

The law aims to equalise standards of care across the country, will create a single, national adoption service and see the introduction of safeguarding for vulnerable adults for the first time.

It has been described by Ministers as the biggest and most complex piece of legislation to have ever been put before the Assembly since it was granted law-making powers in 2011.

I will be watching its development as the changes roll our carefully. Interestingly, at the final hurdle,  a Plaid bid to outlaw zero-hours contracts in the care sector was voted down by Labour and the Conservatives, with the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, questioning whether it would be within the Assembly’s powers.

Assembly Members voted by 53-5 to pass the law, with the Liberal Democrats voting against, I read.

The face of caring is changing across the UK. Our own Care Bill has the potential to improve social and NHS care for all of us, but there’s a big “but . . .” that hangs above all the rhetoric and fine thinking. Yes, the frame is now almost in place to build upon, but – and here it is – funding to finance transition must be released to us.

George Osborne placed savers at the heart of economic recovery in his Budget with new deals on pension funds. For a few moments I though “yes, this could help free up funds and inspire better investment”.

And then I watched the analytics unfold on TV. Despite economic growth, which is good for the care sector, austerity is still on the horizon with no real plan to ease the pain the care sector and its clients are feeling for years to come.

What has been defined as the “wriggle room” of where Mr Osborne can find additional savings is a scary prospect. There seems to be a one-trick pony in this race and it involves slashing local authority budgets. The cuts are then decanted into the community, and not least, the care industry.

If the Chancellor believes that by introducing a new Pensioner Bond to help out the over 65s, I believe he’s missing the mark by a country mile. True, the interest rates are tempting, but few of the pensioners our care providers look after have disposable savings income to take advantage of the initiative.

If Mr Osborne really wants to help the elderly, he should be thinking of releasing his stranglehold on funding for their good care!

Don’t underestimate the power of our voices

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The power of a consistent, persuasive argument knows no bounds and history teaches us that both good and chaotic outcomes can result.

I’d very much like to think that only good can come the work the West Midlands Association does as we lobby, persuade and persevere to improve care and establish rates of pay for it that are at least realistic.

An article I read, of all things, about the government’s care bill, heartened me.

During the last months MPS, peers and their advisors have been shaping the new legislation. It is now in its final Parliamentary stage, but it’s certainly a very different proposal today than when it was first tabled.

Why? Because of the power of persuasive argument and the good work, not least by the Care and Support Alliance, which represents more than 70 charities.

The Alliance persuaded ministers that advocacy needed enshrining in the bill. How could this have been missed by the legal minds that drew the proposals?

An appeals mechanism was also omitted and this too was addressed, among others, by the Alliance. The new draft now has this clause included.

It just goes to show how we can make a difference when we act corporately. I am ever haunted by Sir Digby Jones’s words at a care conference with the association many years ago.

He described us as being “fragmented” and “without a voice in the corridors of power.”

I’d like to think that is changing. Let’s change it some more please.

Writing in the Independent, Andy Kaye, head of policy and campaigns at Independent Age, observes: “Independent Age will continue to play its part in campaigning for a better settlement on funding care. The residential care sector is seriously underfunded, perhaps by £700m.”

I knew we were under-funded, but £700m!

Kaye also sounds a warning: “And those of us concerned about creating a better system from 2015 must now turn our attention to regulations and guidance, which local authorities will look to as the real guide for making improvements in care and support. Unless we get these important bits of guidance right, the fine aspirations set out in the care bill will soon ring hollow.”

Undeniably we have a part to play.

Socking truth of the cuts to social care

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Age UK has just put out some very disturbing figures relating to the care of our elderly. The hugely respected advocate of the elderly estimates that some 168,000 seniors have stopped receiving help with essential tasks.

These essential include eating, washing and getting dressed. The reason? Cuts in social care budget. On reading the Age UK findings I feel a sense of shame (don’t know why) and utter frustration.

One elderly souls passed comment: “It’s becoming like it was in the war . . .” and perhaps she is right.

We have a government policy to enhance living ability in the home for elderly people, but it appears the very support they need to do that is being denied.

The charity laments the “distressing human cost” involved. Indeed, the burden on families is become much greater but often the changing structures of family make it very difficult to contribute in a sustained way.

In note that the dwindling availability of social care has been going on since 2005-06, when Labour was in power, but has increased with deep coalition cuts to the budgets of England’s 152 local councils, Age UK found in its Care in Crisis 2014 report, which is based on official figures.

I quote The Guardian: “In 2010-11, a total of 1,064,475 people aged 65 or over received some form of social care services in England. That number fell by 73,000 the following year, and another 95,000 in 2012-13 to a total of 896,000 – which is 168,000 (15.8%) fewer than in 2010-11, one in six of all those who were helped in that year.

“A total of 1.231 million people received help from social care services in 2005-06 – so that number has fallen by 335,000 in seven years.

“The deterioration in social care has come despite the fact that the number of pensioners rose by more than a million between 2005-06 and 2012-13 and number of over-85s by 30% during that time.”

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director calls the situation “catastrophic”.

I regard Ague UK as a very measured organisation. They are not a charity that seeks sensationalism from the red tops, so Abrahams’ response to the figures is alarming in its own right.

Listen up: We are failing to deliver acceptable levels of care to those who are most vulnerable. I don’t care which political party is to blame – I suspect all of them – but the flagrant disregard of elderly people must stop.

Only three of our 152 local authorities still help those with “low” needs and only 16 offer services to those with “moderate” needs. The majority respond only to “substantial” or “critical” needs.

I would remind the care and support minister Norman Lamb that he told us that “social care is a priority for this government” and there I was thinking that constructing the HS2 rail link was the main agenda. How stupid am!

Can you tell I’m fuming? In the name of humanity, will someone please tell me where we are heading and why our MPs appear silent over such achingly sad findings?

Three pc rise move on minimum wage

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The Low Pay Commission has recommended a three per cent rise in the National Minimum Wage.

I caught the news on the BBC and although I support every principle of proper pay for the job, my heart sank.

If accepted by Government, and I strongly suspect it will, it will place further strain on an already-creaking social care industry.

Central Government really must face the facts that the fees they pay to private sector providers are shockingly out of touch with reality. I can only hope that such a hike in pay structures for the care sector will be recognised by Cabinet and more funding decanted to local authorities to meet the need.

I read on the Care Industry News website that In February, the BBC used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that only four out of 101 councils in England paid at or above UKHCA’s minimum price for homecare of £15.19 per hour.

The three percent uplift will see the National Minimum Wage go from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour – and with our care and nursing homes and ‘domcare’ services, I have to ask: Where will the money be found?

In turn, this rise would effectively increase United Kingdom Homecare Association’s recommended minimum price to £15.74, a figure far in excess of that offered by most local authorities.

UKHCA Chair Mike Padgham was reported as saying: “We all want to see the homecare workers properly rewarded for the demanding and essential work they do.  However, local authorities have persistently failed to recognise these cost pressures.

“It is imperative that a Government which acts on the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation to increase the Minimum Wage also heeds the Commission’s urge for a requirement for councils to take account of the full costs of care in the statutory guidance it is currently preparing on commissioning of social care.”

Well said!

The commission said it had to balance increased costs for businesses against doing more to help the lowest paid, adding that  the economic recovery justified the move.

But the commission and Government seem to be deaf to the fact that the private care sector is a Cinderella industry – over worked and under valued by those who, indeed, should know better.

Since the economic downturn the minimum wage has risen faster than other wages, the Beeb reported.

I am between a rock and hard place here: Do I wish for carers to be properly paid? Indeed yes; but I know this news will be crippling for so many of the providers I represent. There must be a moral obligation on the Alliance to respond in generous fiscal terms to this news.

You see, Mr Cameron, we have run out of smart thinking, of making economies, and no longer can shelve reinvestment.

Perhaps, when social care fails and there’s a national scandal akin to the Stafford Hospital horror, your Cabinet will realise that caring really does cost money and frankly, we need it now.

* Those aged 16-17 would see an increase of just under two per cent, to £3.79 an hour.

Ageing Britain: Why getting oldere I not a picnic

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Elderly people gather in an idyllic woodland and settle down for a bite to eat, but the caption beneath this picture in The Guardian online tells us “Life is no picnic for many older people.”

And we are reminded too in an article outlining the fears of our ageing population that David Cameron once said: “We’re an old country – with our best years ahead of us.” Hmmm . . . well, that’s how he sees it.

Research, however, is not so optimistic with growing concern about pensions, rising costs, health and social care.

The survey for The Guardian shows that just 29 per cent felt the standard of living of older people in the UK was currently at a good level, compared with 46 per cent who disagreed.

The article adds: “And the long-term outlook is even gloomier: just over 11 per cent expect older people’s standard of living to improve over the next 20 years, against 79 per cent who disagree. Over 70 per cent do not believe older people’s overall quality of life will rise in the next two decades, compared with under 16 per cent who do.”

More than 1,600 took part in this study.

What emerged was a perception of a rich-poor divide – those who are financially secure as they retire and those who are struggling in their old age.

“One respondent is quoted: “Pensions are worth nothing, care is being cut back, people are living longer, jobs are going digital. All this, to me, adds up to a hideous time ahead, potentially, for older people.”

More than three-quarters (77 per cent) do not believe public services are working in a co-ordinated way to meet the challenges ahead.

Clearly, there are huge challenges ahead and the spin doctors’ work is not fining a resonance with the elderly. Good!

But what I find most sad is the fact that elderly people have a growing unease about their future.

In the report, Claire Turner, head of ageing society at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says: “There are some huge challenges ahead . . .”

Indeed there are and successive governments’ delay at not properly addressing the issues of an ageing Britain has not helped. As they say in the Black Country, the pigeons are now coming home to roost.

We need more joined-up thinking on the delivery of care, smart systems to make social care sustainable and most of all, some realistic funding.

The uncertainties of future as we desperately try to prepare for the unknown are not only found in those who will need care intervention, but those who delivery too.

I read that housing group Anchor has been spearheading a campaign called Grey Pride, calling on the government to appoint a dedicated minister for older people who could pull together policy on everything from pensions and social care to transport and discrimination.

In the survey nearly 60 per cent said that government should take the lead – something that in my opinion has been lacking and I don’t suppose this latest research will change a single jot.

Nutrition and Hydration Week: Going global

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Nutrition and hydration – two essential elements of wellbeing for those who are in the care loop. It’s a simple, but important message that will enhance people’s lives and aid recovery.

In fact, the message is so valued that national Nutrition & Hydration Week 2014 (17-23 March) is expected to go global.

The essential week of action to raise awareness and improve understanding of the vital importance of good nutrition and hydration across social and health care settings is now reaching reaches far beyond UK boundaries.

Activity has been confirmed and registered as far afield as India and Canada.

The three leading organisations of the campaign – Patient Safety First (PSF), Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) and National Association of Care Catering (NACC) – have put out the challenge to everyone involved in nutritional care in health and social care settings to use the week as a platform to demonstrate and share nutrition and hydration best practice, and illustrate how by making changes to eating and drinking habits people can improve their quality of life.

There will be a host of activities during the week, I’m sure, but one worth mentioning is the Worldwide Afternoon Tea on Wednesday 19 March.

I understand tea dances, a wartime themed afternoon tea party and cake events are already planned, with more events in the Midlands being added daily.

The fantastic mix of activities is limited only by imagination.

Neel Radia, Chair, NACC, comments:  “Nutrition & Hydration Week is shaping up to be an incredible week that will focus attention and efforts on the importance of good nutrition and hydration – a message that is relevant across the globe. By coming together in the spirit of education and sharing best practice and ideas we can create a long-term legacy that will ensure those entrusted to our care always receive the correct nutrition and hydration.”

Andy Jones, HCA Chair, is reported as saying: “The international support for the week shows that good nutrition and hydration is a global issue that presents the same challenges for providers in all countries.  One of the key messages in terms of patient feeding is the need to recognise the subtle but critical difference between ‘eating for good health’, rather than ‘healthy eating’.  

“With under-nutrition and dehydration leading to increased hospital stays and readmission rates, our focus must be on embedding the concept of nutrition and hydration as a key part of a patient’s recovery plan. The NHS Trusts’ support for the week is an encouraging sign of attitudes changing and progress being made.”

Hey, this is all good! It’s also another opportunity to do something local with a national platform and get some publicity. Why shouldn’t we be beating our own drum?