A news item from Communitycare.co.uk caught my eye the other day. ‘Name the bureaucrats who hamper fostering, says minister’ – the minister being Tim Loughton, Children’s Minister at the Dept of Education, who has called on foster carers to tell him which councils are “excessively bureaucratic” when it comes to allowing them to make day-to-day decisions for the children they foster.
Loughton says he plans to demolish some of the ‘myths’, as he sees them, surrounding fostering. A laudable approach, even though those myths are more fact than fiction according to foster carers. Even more laudable if he really does manage the ‘cultural change’ that Jackie Sanders, communication manager for the Fostering Network, called for.
I’ve just watched the Tonight programme, and learned a lot about the hurdles that potential foster carers are required to go through, via the fostering panel. The ‘vetting process’ includes an intensive investigation and examination of a potential foster carer’s early life experience, their family history, their suitable training, CRB checks of themselves and any other family members who may come into close contact with a fostered child, assessments of the suitability and safety of their home, their financial situation; references are all thoroughly checked, medical and mental health checks carried out, schools contacted for information, plus social worker interviews and visits. To name but a few. I would not for one moment criticise the need for each and every one of those safeguards. Where vulnerable children are concerned, they certainly deserve the quality care that may only be ensured by such a volume of ‘risk assessments’.
Gradually, I found myself seeing not the young, vulnerable children featured in the programme, but elderly vulnerable adults living in residential care homes. I began to wonder whether a similar cultural change is perhaps something we should be demanding of Tim Loughton’s counterpart. Not in the Department of Education, but in the Department of …. ….
Where’s your equivalent, Tim Loughton? Where is the Older Person’s Minister? Who is he or she? And has s/he made him/herself known to us all? Paul Burstow’s the Minister for Care, but that encompasses old, young and in-betweeners. So perhaps you’re our man, Mr Burstow.
I challenge you now to provide the same safeguards for all elderly people in care: a vigorous and rigorous vetting process for all care providers and all paid caregivers, encompassing their past history and regardless of the 30 year contracts they may have been handed. A full and detailed assessment of the suitability and training of all those taking charge of our older persons.
Make that full and detailed assessment available in the public domain for anyone to access – that really would show the loopholes in the current system! The CQC– and its predecessor the CSCI – failed to provide the safeguards that should surround each and every residential care home for vulnerable elderly people. The standards of supervision, training, and care for and of vulnerable elderly people are all too often abysmal.
But who cares?
We really do care.
The person in need of care cares.
The family and friends of those in need of care care.
The family and friends of those in residential care homes care.
But who cares enough to listen to us?
Who cares enough to care about the shabby standards of care that are being allowed to continue?
Who cares about the elderly vulnerable people of this rich country of ours?
One of the young people in the programme, Anita Johnston, said she realised that ‘something needed to change’ in her life in order to make it a life worth living – “so I did”, she said. She changed. She managed that change in herself, with the help of her wonderful and caring foster parents. “Without them, I wouldn’t have a hope”, she said.
Without a similar change in those involved in the care of our vulnerable elderly people, we don’t have a hope either.
Anita Johnston, I wish you a happy and successful future. With your caring attitude, with the respect you manage to show, with your wisdom you must have a great future ahead of you. Would you like to become Minister for Older People? You’d do a grand job!!
You could then demolish some of the ‘real myths’ that surround care for older people. All is not what it should be there – so your refreshing caring presence would be more than welcome.
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PS. to Tim Loughton – your website biography needs a rapid update! Or do you still see yourself as a Shadow?
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