Good care is everyone's business, not just the BBC's

4 February 2014

Jane Harrisby Jane Harris

It might sound strange to say it was a relief to hear the news report this morning that only a handful of councils are paying the right amount for homecare. But it is.

For too long, the care that disabled and older people get has gone almost unmentioned, shrouded in secrecy. Hardly a day goes by without journalists and politicians asking difficult questions about the NHS and hospitals. But the support given to people to get up, get dressed and eat is just as important. For most people, they will receive that care day in, day out for much longer than they will get hospital or NHS care.

So it was wonderful to hear debate across the airwaves this morning about care. It was good for listeners to hear stories of Denis Creswell and Sally Lubanov who need care to live decently. Public interest like this can only be a step forward and we’re proud to have done our bit by highlighting the problems with 15-minute care visits last October.

But it’s simply not good enough. It shouldn’t be up to the BBC and charities to keep a check on the care system. Any of us could need this care tomorrow — none of us know when a stroke or MS or a car crash could leave us disabled. We need the government to take more responsibility for the care we citizens provide — and receive.

There are so many things that could improve our care system, from increased resources so more people can get the care they need, to improving support for people who want to work. But here are three small things that could make a big difference.

  • First, we want the government check regularly how many 15-minute care visits each council gives. That seems pretty reasonable to us — without some scrutiny, how can we be sure that people aren’t being left to choose between having a hot drink and going to the loo?
  • Second, the government should also ask the people who rely on this care whether they are getting enough. At the moment, we have a national survey which asks people about whether they are ‘satisfied’ with the care they receive. That’s an important question to ask, but it’s not enough. Many may be pleased with their care worker — Denis Cresswell in the BBC piece today said his care worker Janet was ‘a friend’. But that doesn’t mean that they are getting enough care. That’s why we want the national survey to ask people: ‘Are you getting enough care and support?’
  • Third, we think local councils should report on how their care services are promoting ‘wellbeing’. The government has added a new duty to local councils in the Care Bill, in response to our 15-minute care visits campaign. The duty says that local councils have to promote wellbeing through the care services in their area. This includes working, family life, housing, which all sounds good.
    But who's going to check if this is happening? At the very least, we want local councils to have to report on how their services are helping people's lives. Are people able to get care at the right time of day, for example, to let them go to work (if they can work)? Are people able to socialise or do they have to go to bed so early that they can't meet friends and family for a meal?

None of these things would cost a great deal of money. But they would help us all. We need to be sure as citizens, as children of older people, as friends of disabled people, that everyone who needs this crucial help is getting what they need. None of us wants to live in a society where people live in misery because we have the wrong type of care.

It is good news that we are all thinking more about the care and support that people need — and we are grateful to the BBC for continuing the debate. But the government needs to take a lead — it's too important to leave it to journalists and charities alone.

If you want better care for disabled people, join our campaigns network now.

Jane Harris is managing director of campaigns and engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability. She tweets at @jane_harris77.

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