Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Do the Media Really Care So Little about the Vulnerable in Society?

Last week (12th Sept) the Health & Social Care Information Centre published their provisional report on the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults in England 2012/2013. (https://catalogue.ic.nhs.uk/publications/social-care/vulnerable-adults/abus-vunr-adul-eng-12-13-prov/abus-vuln-adul-eng-12-13-prov-rep.pdf)

The report reveals that of the 86,000 completed referrals to social services 43% were substantiated or partially substantiated.

That means around 37,000 cases of adult abuse occurred.

Yet the news reporting on this staggering statistic has been woefully small, there has been no obvious political indignation that such a large number of vulnerable people have suffered abuse and there has been no official comment from Westminster on the matter.

The statistics are similar to the previous year but that should not mean a lack of interest in protecting those who are vulnerable in society nor should it mean that the abuse of so many should become less news worthy. In fact there should be a national outcry that nothing has been done to reduce the number over the last year.

Another aspect of the released figures should also be raising eyebrows. Of the 86,000 completed referrals more than a quarter (27%) were inconclusive – neither substantiated nor unsubstantiated after investigation. And, while adult protection issues can be notoriously complex, this seems a high number yet there has been no call for an explanation of why this may be the case and what action is taken to protect those who may be at risk following an inconclusive investigation.

Do we really care so little about the plight of the most vulnerable in our society?

Obviously the Health & Social Care Information Centre can only publish the official statistics and given the high amount of abuse in them there must also be concern about the level of unreported abuse of vulnerable people. If there is so little news and Government interest in the numbers of those we know have been abused what is the likelihood of action being taken to help those who are vulnerable and abused yet unknown to the system.

There has always been a lack of interest in social care by the mainstream media and, for that matter, by central Government, yet it is people at their most vulnerable who are suffering from various levels of abuse who are left unprotected by Government and, importantly, by social pressure through the media.

This has to change.

How can we call ourselves a society when we ignore the needs of those who need our help the most and by allowing these levels of abuse to continue? How can the public know of the staggering numbers of people being abused if the media is not interested in them?

We need change but that change can only come if there is enough social pressure on politicians and that can only come from the media.

Do the media really care so little about the plight of the most vulnerable in our society?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Zero Hour Contracts, A Cautionary Approach

This week the Trade Union Congress will call for the outlawing of zero hours contacts (http://www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/tuc-22485-f0.pdf pg12) and while, personally, I dislike the practice there has to be caution in either outlawing the practice or, indeed, modifying it.

It is estimated that around 300,000 social care workers are on zero hours contracts (http://www.socialcareworker.co/2013/08/02/300000-social-care-workers-on-zero-hours-contracts/), around a third of the total workforce.

Before we puts jobs at jeopardy or social care services at risk by outlawing zero hours contracts there first needs to be a comprehensive look at why the use of zero hours contracts has risen in social care and, obviously, an understanding of the impact to services if those contracts are outlawed.

Is there, for example, a link between the increased use of zero hour contracts and the increased use of ’15 minute’ social care services being commissioned?

A survey last year by the UKHCA found that
·         Short homecare visits being commissioned by councils to undertake intimate personal care, with risks to the dignity and safety of people who use services;
·         Continued downward-pressure on the prices paid for care, where lowest price has overtaken quality of service in commissioning decisions;
·         Contracting arrangements which have resulted in visit times and the hourly rates paid for care as the decisive factors in the viability of the sector.

If providers are fighting to compete on price then, from a business point of view, it means having staff on zero hours contracts makes sense if it helps reduce overall staffing costs. So the issue is not only about zero hour contracts but also about commissioning and funding in social care.

There also needs to be thought about the impact on services if zero hours contracts are outlawed or modified without any real thought of the implications.

Social care is, by its very nature, difficult to plan for. We cannot tell how many people will suddenly need social care services in the near future or, sadly, how many will no longer need care services. So there needs to be a degree of flexibility in social care staffing, particularly in home care where the greater use of zero hours contracts are found.

If zero hour contracts are removed without arrangements for dealing with this need for flexibility then care services could be affected. For example not enough staff would lead to people receiving care services only when people are available rather than when they need them or providers could have a surfeit of staff who would still need to be paid even when there was no work for them, putting pressure on the provider’s economic viability.

Within social care zero hour contracts are as much a symptom of the financial constraints as they are about employer exploitation. Yes let’s get rid of them but in a manner that ensures social care services are improved rather than put in jeopardy and a manner that improves the lives of social care workers rather than puts jobs at risk.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Go On – Ask a Question Today.

It is very easy to forget that many of the things we take for granted nowadays did not exist 50/60 years ago, or if they did they were in the realms of the elite who could afford such luxuries.

Fridges and freezers, for example, did not become common place until the 1960’s, which, naturally, means frozen foods did not become popular until that time and that food storage was a different kettle of fish (an expression from when fish was boiled rather than sealed with sauce in a soft plastic container!).

Similarly supermarkets did not exist as we know them today, Sainsburys opened their first ‘self-service’ store in 1950 and Tesco’s opened their first supermarket in 1958, and even then it took a while for the supermarket to spread across the country to become the default means of buying the weekly shop.

Obviously before these momentous changes eating habits were completely different, no ready meals, no frozen dinners, food bought according to season and location rather than according to what you fancy. Culturally things were different too. In the 1950’s more women stayed at home and were expected to provide meals for the family which had to be freshly prepared from scratch.

Naturally most people who need older peoples social care services now spent their early, formative years eating in a completely different way to the way we do now.

Now think back to your own childhood, what was your favourite food? What memories does the thought of that food evoke? What other memories do you associate with that? There will, of course, be a whole range of memories because of the different favourites you had at different times in your life and it is the unique tapestry of memories that makes us all unique individuals.

The only way we can find out about the memories of others and what makes them unique is by listening to them and asking them and this, to my mind, is one of the most important things in social care provision.

It does not matter what our position in life or what age we are right now, if someone takes a genuine interest in us and talks to us, listens to us and asks us about ourselves, it makes us feel good. Now if you are a person who needs care services, either at home or in a care home, the knowledge that the person providing that care takes an interest in who we are rather than looking at us just as a ‘task’ to be completed it will boost personal esteem and do considerably more good to an individual.

Obviously cognitive decline may impact on memory recall yet even if the memories have faded the mere act of sitting and talking to someone is, in itself, a worthwhile act.

The more we can engage on a personal level the more we learn about a person and the more we can tailor our service to them but, more importantly, the more we engage with people the more we build their sense of worth.

Go on – ask a question today.