02/05/2014 3 Comments
Like many people on Wednesday I listened to the various commentary ahead of the evening’s Panorama programme about abuse at a Care Home in Essex and so was to some extent, ready for what I watched. However even after far too many of this type of report, I was shocked at the disgusting lack of human kindness shown by some care workers at the home in Essex.
Over the past few years I have had the privilege to be, at least politically, involved in the world of care homes and have in my time, previously in the role of Cabinet Member for Adult Care at Suffolk and more recently as a member of the LGA National Board for Community and Wellbeing learnt a great deal about domiciliary and residential care standards and their implementation.
I have sat down at length with successive Care Ministers and most recently with Norman Lamb MP and I know we all share the same frustration, in that how through National Policy, national policing of standards through the CQC, an open culture through top tier authorities prioritising and funding a robust Adult Safeguarding Board and it’s processes, through to the culture of the Care Home providers in an area showing real leadership. An integral part of this is the role of the local authority local authority paying a sufficient rate for a care bed and importantly providing the public thought timely and un-bias useful information, enough advice for the 60% of the market who make their own arrangements to avoid and thus ‘starve out’ poor providers, encouraging the good providers to flourish.
In Suffolk the County Council actually ‘buys’ some 40% of the total number of care beds in the system for those who do not have the means to pay for residential care for themselves. Over a 4 year period I got to know a large number of the providers through chairing the joint meetings between the County Council and the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers and helping to facility workshops and conferences with them over that period. I also came to have a good understanding of the market and its financial drivers as I lead the 18 month process Suffolk went through with my determination to deal with the problem successive administrations and previous Cabinet Members has not dealt with, namely the last 16 of Suffolk’s residential care homes and our eventually decision to transfer to Care UK who are currently working through a programme of £60 million of investment in 10 new state of the art homes.
In terms of the local authorities whilst they must not waste the public purse they must make sure they pays a rate for the beds they buy that allows appropriate staffing levels to be maintained.
There is across the system an ever increasing pressure on budgets and as I exit the Suffolk’s County Council cabinet, I am absolutely determined that those in the cabinet are acutely aware of their duty to those vulnerable members in our community that we must maintain adequate funding to look after people and as I suspect thinks do come down to the crunch it is not about defending departments budgets but to stop doing things that do not matter and focus on those things that do, such as funding care and making sure the authority has the capacity to react to such shocking stories as seen last night, if they were to occur in Suffolk.
Much is said about care worker pay rates and the private market operation of care homes and actual profit. But in my understanding of the national picture abuse is not limited to purely private sector homes. You only have to look at the Francis Report on abuse at Mid Staffs Hospital Trust, a more public sector organisation you could not wish to find, yet right out in the open, not even behind the closed doors of a Residential Care Homes abuse was happening.
Also it is often said or implied that because private providers seek to make a profit they pay badly and this can lead to abuse. I would contest this based on my actual experience working with different providers seeking to take over Suffolk County Councils 16 care homes. The market is investing vast tracks of money, just look at the £60m we achieved being invested in Suffolk and that was one smallish deal. Such levels of investment and long term approach to their business model requires a high standard of care so that partners such as Suffolk do not break the relationship, equally listed companies can be devalued by such reputation damage and so the good providers are intently focused on maintaining a high standard of care precisely because they want to make long term sustainable profits.
What is also clear is that for all the above, for all the regulation, making sure pay rates are sufficient both in terms of bed rates and pay for care workers and every other thing that Leadership can effect, I would say that personal responsibility must play a part and the care workers who indulged themselves in such shocking behaviour and I use the right word for such a lack of basic human kindness is a self-indulgence in not behaving appropriate, should be utterly ashamed of themselves and frankly should receive a tariff based ban from working with vulnerable people. We must all work to stamp this out.