Care homes aren't the problem — it's lack of choice
3 July 2014
by Jane Harris
Simon Stevens, the new head of NHS England, has reportedly said he’d like to see all care homes closed by 2060. Whether he said exactly that or not, it’s a good debate to have.
I wasn’t sure what went on in care homes before I joined Leonard Cheshire Disability. I was pretty sure that they were for old people. But since working at the charity and being involved in the Demos commission on residential care, I’ve come to understand that care homes are a good thing, but only if they are a genuine choice.
I’ve met people who lived in ordinary homes in the community before coming to live in a care home. They've told me they are happier than where they lived before. People have said that loneliness was a real problem before, but now they feel part of a community again. We should listen to those experiences and make sure others have the option to join them should they choose.
I’ve met other people who have no choice but to move to a care home. Sometimes this is because there is simply no housing that would work for them. The lack of disabled-friendly housing in this country is a scandal and we’ll be talking much more about that in the coming weeks and months. Sometimes their local council says it was the only affordable option. We’re part of the Care and Support Alliance pushing for sustainable funding for the care system.
One thing we can be sure of in 21st century Britain is that we’re a much more individualistic society than 100 years ago. Our care homes and care system have to adapt to that.
But that doesn’t mean throwing out care homes as an option, it means giving people more choice. Choice to move to a more disabled-friendly home in the community, if that’s what someone wants. Or to move into a home with care on site — if that’s what they want.
Non-disabled people make these choices all the time — living with family members, moving into a flatshare, living alone. We should all have these choices — and the chance to change our minds when our circumstances, hopes and abilities change. Let’s open up people’s choices, not close them down.
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Jane Harris is managing director of campaigns and engagement at Leonard Cheshire Disability. She tweets at @jane_harris77.