Tag Archives: David Cameron

Alzheimer’s Society – a peculiar kind of charity?

There’s a disturbing piece in the current issue of Private Eye (No.  1284; 18 March 2011 – 31 March 2011; ‘In the Back’ section; page 30) about the Alzheimer’s Society.

The article’s not available online, only an online taster:

Dementia Care – Fear and loathing at the Alzheimer’s Society as volunteers reject the charity’s new-found “professionalisation”, saying it ignores local needs.

According to the article, volunteers who have been fundraising for years via local Alzheimer’s Society branches are now leaving to start their own breakaway groups.  It would appear that the Alzheimer’s Society decided to abolish 240 branch committees, merging them into large regional centres, and the Society has apparently seized control of all the funds within those branches, and also the branch property.

If the content of the Private Eye article is accurate – and it is rare for The Eye to get it wrong! – it is shocking.

The Eye states:

In addition, some members who challenged decisions of their new managers were treated appallingly, sometimes locked out of the premises they had run for years.

One is Ernie Thompson, who started the Sunderland branch in 1987 and chaired it until it had an annual turnover of around £400,000.  His reward for years of unpaid work?  Changed locks and “everything ransacked and seized”, he says.

So much for charity!  David Cameron must  be invited to say whether this strange action on the part of a dementia charity falls within or without The Big Society.

No wonder Fund razing is Private Eye’s chosen headline.

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A letter to Santa

Dear Santa

It’s years or even decades since I wrote to you, so I wonder whether I might ask for the following presents.  The presents aren’t for me, but if you could manage the lot, that really would be the best present of all time.

Perhaps your Reindeer could deliver one each while you sit back and have a well-earned rest.  There’s some debate as to whether or not all of your reindeer are female or castrated.   Male reindeer lose their antlers in winter, don’t they, but as long as they can all draw on a few skills that are so sadly lacking in some of the people they’ll be visiting the gender of your reindeer matters not a jot!  Care, charity, compassion, concern and consideration are but a few of the senses absent from the recipients of the gifts you’re about to deliver.

Dasher’s reputed to be your speediest reindeer, so we’ll keep Dasher until last!  And I’ve rearranged some of the others, so that they have a bit of variety from their usual line-up.  Similar to the way in which many of our political leaders with their supposedly caring minds have been rearranged recently.

Comet and Cupid have got to be the first down the chimney, hand-in-hand, delivering to a very Happy Couple, David and Nick, who were drawn together by another Cupid.   After a whirlwind romance, they succumbed to temptation and tied the knot.  David and Nick deserve all they get.

Comet will forgive me, I hope, for calling on one extra-terrestrial frozen mass that travels around the sun in an elliptical orbit to deliver to another body with a frozen mass but also in orbit.  Historically, comets have been considered to be bad omens.  Cupid will understand the need to accompany Comet.

Could David and Nick have two presents each, please?

For David, a pair of fluffy slippers.  A fairly traditional old-fashioned present, but his feet must be so very tired after wearing hobnailed boots for months on end now.  He’s trampled over ground that’s been compacted with care over the years as it provided a solid base for many people.  The young, the old, the poor and the sick have all suffered recently as they’ve had no choice but to watch everything they believed in by way of support mechanisms being dismantled at breakneck speed.   David’s second present could be a pair of headphones, or perhaps a couple of ear trumpets, or any device that could amplify sound and enhance the power of those two little receivers on either side of his head.  At the moment he’s either unable to hear, or unwilling to listen, to the voice of the people.

Nick will probably be found lying down in a darkened room, waiting for his next mission to be announced.  He’s feeling weary, from all that orbiting around his sun-god.  So, for Nick a hot-water bottle to warm his frozen heart as he orbits.  And some heavy-duty suspenders because the oomph has gone out of his braces.  He’s been dangled, swung and swayed for far too long now, and if his elastic snaps, then his orbit could be so great that he’ll never find a way down to earth again.  That may not be a bad thing though.

Prancer brings to Vince a mirror, a compass and a magnetic tutu.  The mirror may remind Vince of who he is and what he once believed in, let alone what he once promised; the compass will direct him towards the right path.  The magnetic tutu will allow him to leap and pirouette to his heart’s content, but will always bring him back to earth with a bump and a strong reminder of the way in which he has chosen to manipulate his position.

Dancer arrives gracefully in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street, where the whole cabinet seem to be rehearsing for Strictly Come Dancing, all dancing to the tune of the Happy Couple.  Dancer’s gift will be the last-published edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.  The words that have come from the mouths of the cabinet have shocked many of us recently – and they haven’t finished yet – so this present from you will enable them to learn some acceptable words, rather than the vulgarities they’ve grown accustomed to.

Hopefully they’ll see how rude they’ve been, using words like scum, sinners, scroungers, spongers and so on.  They never used such words before the General Election to describe the people who voted in that election, so perhaps power brings with it a mouth filled with obscenities.

All the Secretaries of State would welcome a bottle of mouthwash too, if you could arrange that one, Santa.

And if you could also run to a copy of Derek Fraser’s ‘The Evolution of the British Welfare State’, and a copy of Charles Webster’s ‘The National Health Service: A Political History’ then the Cabinet could be kept occupied and out of mischief for a good while reading up on what they’re all trying to demolish and finding out why they should tread carefully.

Donner and Blitzen can work as a twosome.  The thunder and lightning they deliver to the House of Commons will be deafening and startling.  It will shake awake that sleepy band of so-called representatives of the people.  To each MP a pair of kid gloves made of the softest leather you can find, plus a feather duster.  The gloves are to be secured permanently to their hands so that they will be gentle and thoughtful whenever they debate and vote on issues that affect the real people, even though they may not impact on the lives of this strange bunch of representatives that has landed from outer space.

As for the feather dusters, I’ll leave it to Donner and Blitzen to place them where they see fit.  Any orifice will suffice as long as the purpose and function of a feather duster remains intact.  To dust away the cobwebs, but not to demolish spiders in the process.   They protect fine china.  That’s what we ask our MPs to do too.

Vixen has a detour to make, I’m afraid, to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to deliver as large a quantity of magnifying glasses as possible.  The CQC has been very short-sighted for years now, failing to care enough about the quality of care it has allowed to be registered and delivered to people in need of care and support.   The magnifying glasses will enable the CQC to inspect at very close range all those self-assessments from care providers all over the country that will be in need of scrutiny from now on.  And perhaps the few inspectors that may remain after the latest shake-up will each be able to take a magnifying glass with them when they go on unannounced inspection visits.  They could all do with an appointment with an optician too.

Now to Dasher, your right-hand reindeer.  Dasher will have had a rest while the others were all working hard, so Dasher will speed you all to Buckingham Palace.  Don’t worry, it’ll be empty as the usual tenants will all be elsewhere.  Waiting for you there will be every single resident from every single care home in the land, plus every single older person who can’t afford to heat their own home this winter, plus every single child from every family that is soon to be made homeless and forced to move further afield plus their mums and dads of course, plus every single disabled person who is soon to face the most stringent inspection of their personhood in order to retain the support they need, plus a few more good people who will soon be battered and bruised by the bunch of heartless thugs we call the government.

Rudolph is the youngest new arrival to your fleet, so perhaps Rudolph could do a Rudy, a front somersault with 1½ twists and keep you all entertained.  Turn the heat up, eat the cupboards bare, have a great party.   Stay as long as you wish.

Oh, I nearly forgot: while you are having a rest, Santa, loads of presents will be delivered to the Palace.  Well, we arranged to re-route all the presents that were destined to go elsewhere  to the undeserving powerful heartless decision-makers, to the fat-cats, to the wheeler-dealers, to the tax avoiders, and so on.  And we re-directed the bankers’ bonuses too, so you won’t run out of anything at all as you celebrate.

Many thanks in advance, Santa!

Seasonal Greetings to you all.

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Two more Ps added to the Con Dem Dictionary

They’ve been and gone and done it again!!  First they came up with Seven Ps for  the Vision for Adult Social Care.  Now, they’ve added two more Ps to the Con Dem Coalition Dictionary.

They are to give us the PIP!

Oxford English Dictionary (OED):

to have (also get) the pip: to be (or become) depressed, despondent, or unwell.

to give a person the pip: to annoy or irritate; to make angry, bad-tempered, or dispirited.

The proposed PIP has already achieved its purpose with me!

The proposed PIP is the Personal Independence Payment, a 21st century replacement for the DLA (Disability Living Allowance).  The Consultation Document arrived yesterday. 

“We are committed to a sustainable and fair system that allows people to work when they can and provides unconditional support to those who are unable to work.”  Allowing people to work when they ‘can’ will require the creation of jobs; denying or even giving people the PIP will not create those work opportunities.  Unconditional support?  That may be a first from the Coalition.  It’s hard to see where that unconditional support will come from, when you read some of the inflammatory language used to describe people in receipt of benefits, words that should never have entered the Coalition Dictionary.

“…. work is the best form of welfare for those who are able to do so” provides a new Coalition Dictionary definition of welfare.  Or is Maria Miller meaning the kind of happiness that David Cameron was talking about measuring, with £2m to be spent on a ‘happiness index’.   In my own family, the ‘welfare’ of working at a certain Remploy establishment never provided much happiness for our person with a disability, nor did it provide a decent salary; it provided an exceedingly boring, unbelievably repetitive and demeaning job that nobody would have chosen to do, had it not been forced onto a disabled person as the only ‘option’, and with very little in the way of financial reward.

“The rising caseload and expenditure is unsustainable” – but disability does not discriminate; disability arrives without warning and without counting the financial cost that a caring society should be able to manage.  Soon our discriminatory Con Dem Coalition – that arrived without warning and without giving us all the chance to count the cost – will make disability vanish altogether.  Now that really would be progressive, and if they can manage to achieve that one, I’m sure many disabled people will be enormously grateful.  But a caring government cannot turn a blind eye to disability.  Unless, of course, we don’t have a caring government.  Or unless we have at present a government with a disability.

“Instead, each case will be looked at individually, considering the impact of the impairment or health condition, rather than basing the decision on the health condition or impairment itself.” – I wonder if they’ve counted the cost of that plan, because that surely will be unsustainable.

“The new assessment will focus on an individual’s ability to carry out a range of key activities necessary to everyday life.” These sound so much like the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that are preventing so many vulnerable elderly people with dementia from receiving the healthcare and support they need.  According to the fuzzy thinking of some local authority bean counters (a.k.a. the finance department) ADLs only require ‘social care’, but not healthcare.   Is that where we are now heading?  Towards a world where disability is no longer to be considered anything to do with health, but only a function of being a person  in the (small) society?  Requiring the need to carry out only the basic ADLs of life?  Apart from the special equipment that a disabled person may need to perform the ADLs “necessary to everyday life”, are we now about to prescribe life?  Or should that be proscribe?  Who is to judge and dictate?

“this will involve a face-to-face meeting with an independent healthcare professional, allowing an in-depth analysis of an individual’s circumstances.” – Another unsustainable cost.  Transforming itself from cost to gain – to a sustainable gain for the independent healthcare professional fraternity that will no doubt emerge via a for-profit Provider of Independent Professionals (see below!).

“We know that some people’s needs may change over time, and sometimes so gradually that the customer themselves won’t notice.” The customer?  The customer????  What an unwelcome and insensitive word to use to describe someone with a disability.  But it may be a revealing word – revealing the way in which people with a disability are seen by our Con Dem Coalition.  You’re just a customer – so if you don’t like what we have ‘on offer’ go elsewhere.  But there is no ‘elsewhere’.  Sad!

“in line with the Government’s new strategy on fraud and error, there will be penalties if an individual knowingly fails to report a change that would have resulted in a reduction in benefit” How sad to see mention of ‘fraud’ so early in a request for consultation.  What is the total cost of DLA fraud?  Where is the evidence for that claim?  Please publish proof – 3 more Ps to add to the Coalition Dictionary!

“We must ensure that our resources are focused on those with the greatest need.” There is an unspoken message here, the implication being that there will be a severe scaling of disability and the exclusion of those disabled people who are not deemed to be in greatest need.  Critical needs only?  Severe needs maybe but not guaranteed?  Moderate needs possibly but unlikely?  All the normal needs associated with a disability – probably not a cat’s chance in hell of the focus being on those needs.

“The definitions currently used are subjective and reflect views of disability from the 1990s, not the modern day. For example, ‘mobility’ as currently defined concentrates on an individual’s ability to walk, not their ability to get around more generally.” Are we to receive a definition of mobility according to the Coalition Dictionary?

“One will be awarded on the basis of the individual’s ability to get around (the mobility component), the other on their ability to carry out other key activities necessary to be able to participate in daily life (the daily living component).” “Eligibility – The individual must have a long-term disability” – HELP!!!  That’s a Coalition Dictionary definition of disability.

“Personal Independence Payment will only be available to those with a long-term health condition or impairment.” as above!

“Our initial proposal is that the assessment should consider activities related to an individual’s ability to get around, interact with others, manage personal care and treatment needs, and access food and drink.”

“This might mean, for example, considering an individual’s ability to get about in a wheelchair, rather than ignoring the wheelchair, as we do currently.” What will be the consequences for a person with cerebral palsy, say, who is not able to stand and walk without the support of two walking sticks, and who cannot take one single unassisted step before falling to the ground, but who has made the personal choice not to use a wheelchair whilst preferring to use two walking sticks to aid mobility from chair to table, from table to bathroom, from bathroom to bed, from front door to car (with hand-controls, and all paid for by the person), from car to place of work, from  …. etc etc etc?  Is that person to be categorised as ‘fully mobile’ or ‘could be fully mobile if we force her/him to use a wheelchair or else we remove his/her PIP?’  This plan is beginning to scare me.

Or will a person with exactly the same disability as another be entitled to PIP because she/he makes the personal choice of walking with sticks rather than using a wheelchair as an aid to mobility?  Whereas a person with exactly the same disability and the same manifestations of that disability is to be denied PIP because she/he makes the personal choice of using a wheelchair?  Yes, I am confused by this one.

“What aids and adaptations should be included? Should the assessment only take into account aids and adaptations where the person already has them or should we consider those that the person might be eligible for and can easily obtain?” And would those aids and adaptations be chosen by the person?  Or merely the ones the PIP decision-makers decide can be afforded by this onslaught on people with a disability?

“What would be the implications for disabled people and service providers if it was not possible for Personal Independence Payment to be used as a passport to other benefits and services?” Surely that question does not need to be asked – it’s obvious.

“The social model of disability says that disability is created by barriers in society.  We remain committed to the social model of disability. The new assessment will not be based solely on the medical model of disability and focused entirely on an individual’s impairment, but will instead focus on the ability of an individual to carry out a range of key activities necessary for everyday life.” This obsession with the ‘activities necessary for everyday life’ must surely go against everything the Disability Discrimination Act has ever stood for.

“Many people think that disability is caused by an individual’s health condition or impairment. This approach is called the medical model of disability.” The fact remains that some disability is indeed caused by an individual’s health condition or impairment, and that cannot be ignored.  You cannot change the focus of disability from medical to social needs.  Disability is not created by barriers in society – however, the barriers in society often increase the disability.  Chicken and egg!  The Con Dem Coalition has no mandate to scramble eggs, for the convenience of – and in the best interests of – the Con Dem Coalition’s sustainability.

“measuring each individual’s expenditure would be administratively complex and expensive” – and yet the plan is to assess and review each and every single application and applicant?  How will we be able to afford the one, but not the other?  The costs will be enormously expensive but will come via the creation of a new pot of gold for a new breed of independent Providers of Independent Professionals (a different kind of PIP!!) – a new bandwagon for the ‘for-profit health and care providers’ to pounce on.

In the recent past, Tory MP Rory Stuart described some of his constituents as “primitive people, holding up their trousers with bits of twine”.

The Government decided to get tough – on benefit scroungers by bringing in Experian to assist with bounty-hunting of the poor

The magnificent IDS (Iain Duncan Smith) decided to talk of sin, when referring to people who were without work.

Then along came Howard Flight, Tory peer, with his preposterous claim that changes to the child benefit system would encourage the poor to “breed”.

Where next?  Perhaps those who are unfortunate enough to be in receipt of a disability will all be required to PIP off to a Dickensian workhouse.  Or why not swap places with the House of Commons’ scroungers?

The Con Dem Coalition members are unlikely to be on the receiving end of many of the decisions they are now making.  I just hope there will be a system in place to pick up the pieces of their decision-making.

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Iain Duncan Smith and the benefits system overhaul

Iain Duncan Smith said  here on this BBC report ” ….. thus making work pay more than being in benefits …. “.  At least  I think that’s what I heard IDS say.

Suggestions to IDS:

1.  Show us your Job Creation plan first, so that we can perhaps understand where the ‘work’ is.

2. Then make pay work more than being in/on benefits.

3.  Recreate the apprenticeships that served many people so well.  There’s not much point in this strange ‘work experience’ you’re thinking up unless there’s more than a basic element of sensible training, leading to …. … … a job!

It’s the rate of pay that’s not working.

Look closely at the minimum wage – and tell us all whether you, IDS,  could survive, comfortably, on that minimum hourly rate of pay.  How many strikes would it take for you to chuck in your ‘over-the-minimum wage’ for the  job that you no doubt are doing so enormously well?  When were you last required to survive, uncomfortably, on the minimum hourly wage for a job?  Never?  Thought so.

Where is the work?  Where are the jobs?  Where is the training for those jobs?

Vacuous talk at present.

And chubby David Cameron’s putting on a lot of weight at the moment – so he must be living well.

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Care and progress? – Or ideology gone too far?

Plymouth – July 2010

THREE council-run residential homes could be closed as the city changes the way it looks after elderly and vulnerable people.

And a respite unit for people with learning disabilities also faces closure if the city council Cabinet agrees at its meeting next Tuesday.

The changes will come as part of a wider strategy to modernise care services.

The council has already moved older people out of a number of out-dated residential centres and into new extra care schemes where they can be helped to live with more independence.

Fife – October 2010-10

As public spending cuts begin to bite, councillors will be asked to consider three cost-saving options when the social work and health committee meet on Tuesday (19th October).

One of these includes closing all local authority residential care homes with residents moving to another care home of their choice in the private or not for profit sector.

Fife – October 2010 update

While councillors agreed on Tuesday to reject a plan which would have seen all 10 of its care homes closed and residents transferred to places in the private and voluntary sector, question marks remain over seven of the homes after the council agreed to consult with a view to “replacing existing provision as and when suitable alternative provision becomes available.”

Llanelli – October 2010

A new row is brewing over controversial plans to close two Llanelli care homes.

Union chiefs have complained to the Assembly Government  over the public consultation exercise being carried out on Caemaen and St Paul’s care homes

Carmarthenshire Council denies Unison’s claims the exercise is “unfair and inadequate”.

The union says the consultation document includes options to close both homes and privatise residential care home services.

Suffolk – October 2010

The council is to look at all 16 homes that it operates across the county – and has come up with three options for the future:

Option 1 – Closing the homes and buying in services from the private sector.

Option 2 – Selling off all the homes as going concerns.

Option 3 – Closing six homes and trying to sell off the remaining 10.

Isle of Wight – October 2010

Also proposed in the far-reaching consultation are plans to scrap free home care for the over 80s and increase charges for services, including meals on wheels, home care and day centre sessions — plans which have sparked concern among carers.
Frances Wright, chairman of the Isle of Wight branch of Carers UK, said: “All these charges will add up. It’s not just money — people are worried about paying for services but they are also worried services will disappear.”
A report commissioned by healthcare watchdog, the IW LINk, suggested further plans to cut support services for all but the most vulnerable people could prove to be a false economy. It found money spent on preventative social care services resulted in long-term savings for the council and other agencies, such as the NHS.

This week’s Comprehensive Spending Review has caused Nigel Edwards, Acting Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, to warn in a letter to The Daily Telegraph that hospital beds in England may fill up with the elderly and vulnerable because of cuts to local authority social care funding.  “Hospital beds will be blocked for those who badly need care because the support services the elderly require after discharge will not be available.”

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Once upon a time – not a bedtime story, this one! – elderly and vulnerable people were spending longer than necessary in nasty, horrible, depressing, run-down Victorian long-stay hospitals.  Many were fairly averagely normal (whatever that means) when they arrived; some were just seen as a danger to the public, so were lifted and incarcerated.  Before long they became institutionalised to such an extent that a return to normal life in the community wasn’t on the cards.   Even young unmarried women who had become pregnant were forcibly held in some of these appalling institutions – and they never recovered from the experience.

Then, as the Welfare State gained strength, and as society gradually improved its attitudes towards the needy, the vulnerable, and those with disabilities, there was a plan to close these places down, once and for all.   From the 1960s, Care in the Community became the buzzword.  Then slowly,  all people were to have the same human right to a life with dignity, regardless of  their age, gender, race, colour … and so on.  Goodbye to institutions, asylums, long-stay hospitals.  Hello to care.  Or so we thought.

Here we are now, with the biggest onslaught about to take place on our public services, our welfare state, with the sick, the vulnerable, the elderly and the poor all about to become victims of a brutal ideology gone too far. Without a mandate from the Great British people for such draconian measures.  I want nothing to do with that kind of Big Society.

We found a way to care in the community.  Is there no place for care in the big society?

At the memorial service for PC Toms, on Monday 18 October 2010, David Cameron quoted “evil thrives when good men do nothing” – and as I watched a clip on TV News of him saying that, I wondered to myself whether the (then undeclared) Comprehensive Spending Review would bring a similar thought to our minds.

They don’t care, do they?

So we will have to show them that we care.

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How fair is Britain?

I’m half-way through reading “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins.

I’m hooked!

Alongside, I’ve also been dipping into the first “Triennial Review “published today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  No, I haven’t read the full 750 pages yet, but I’ve read the transcript of the video overview, and a good few more pages too. 

Read more ….

I’m twice hooked!!

OK, I admit it was the word ‘triennial’ that grabbed me … for purely personal reasons.  I am approaching a first “Triennial Review” that is all my own.  Namely the Triennial Review that I promised myself I would conduct at the end of my 3rd year (yes, third year) into the circumstances of neglect that surrounded my own relative in need of caring care.  But neglect was all that came her way.  And she died a painful death, and an earlier than anticipated death, as a result of that neglect.

“It’s the job of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to help society make further progress.”  Would that be the Big Society that David Cameron keeps banging on about?  Or the other (only?)  Society that we all know of old?  And yes, I am quietly hoping it’s the second of those two options that the Equality and Human Rights Commission strives to help.

Can you help me also, EHRC?  Can you help me to achieve progress, as I work my way through the muck that is being delivered (almost daily now!!) from those who are supposed to care about ‘fairness’ and to care about ‘care’?  If you are able to do that, please get in touch and I will graciously accept your assistance.

Or are there two societies now?  One Big; one Small.  One where ‘fairness’ is defined by the Big Society backed by the ConDemNation, to the detriment of the Small Society comprising the little people?

“This October we are publishing our first ever such review, entitled ‘How Fair Is Britain’.

It describes the chances, choices and outcomes in life of people from all different groups.”  I’m still looking for a few words in the transcript: older, people, dementia, in care, but then I found some of them in the online summary.

Care and support:  (follow the link below if you care to read it all ….)

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/key-projects/triennial-review/online-summary/care-and-support/

“As might be expected, we are more likely to need care as we grow older. We are also more likely to provide it later in life, as we have children and as our families and friends age with us.”

Don’t get me wrong, EHRC.  I applaud our past history of fairness, our well-known and well-recognised tradition of fairness and respect for other points of view, culture,  gender, race, sexuality,  religion and so on … that meaningful equality (as you call it) that we have achieved.  Historic prowess shouldn’t allow for complacency.

History is neither our present, nor our future. We must find the way to demonstrate today that we value and care enough about our history of fairness, our reliable traditions connected to our history of fairness, and our past celebrations of our ‘fairness’ to carry us forward to our today and to our tomorrow?

It is not enough though to express good intentions, what matters is making a practical tangible difference.  And you can’t hope to make change happen in the real world without looking hard at the facts.

I do appreciate that you’re also in a fragile state, EHRC, being – for want of a better phrase – currently under review.  But then again, I do wonder whether this fairness that we purport to attribute to this (as we would like to see it) fair nation of ours really does care, or even  whether the word ‘care’ may disappear from our vocabulary fairly soon, to be replaced by … neglect.

The spending review currently being imposed by our Married-by-Convenience Coalition Government may well demolish all of our hopes for ‘fairness’, especially fairness in old age.  If we allow everything that has become known as caring care to be scrapped without decent consultation and without decent consent, then the Older Person will be thrown out with the mucky bathwater.

Do we really care?  If so, why don’t I believe you?  Why is our ‘caring care’ not visible?  Why have I spent 3 years of my life trying to establish whether or not we/you/they really do care?

Have we evolved enough to care?  Or are we in need of another “Blind Watchmaker”?

Will I be thrice hooked?  Ever?  Never?

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Care home residents died from ‘severe neglect’

Will it never end? Will lessons never be learned?  Will we never be able to guarantee quality care in care homes?

Please tell me what more we have to do?

Guardian.co.uk carries this horrific story of neglect.

“Five elderly residents of a failing care home who died within two weeks of each other had suffered “severe neglect”, an official inquiry has concluded.

The residents of Parkside House nursing home in Northampton died between 22 July and 6 August, 2009. They were aged between 83 and 100.

A serious case review into the deaths, published today, described standards of care at Parkside as appalling. It said signs of a rapid decline in standards at the home in the weeks before the first resident died had not been picked up.

At a press conference, it was disclosed that there was a lack of basic care, including ensuring residents had enough to eat and drink.

Verdicts of natural causes were recorded in all five deaths, but the review found they died from causes that “were considered to be consistent with the effects of severe neglect”.

Seven members of staff and the owner of the home were referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).”

The home had been inspected in November 2008.

The review said Parkside House’s CQC registration was for people suffering from dementia and long-standing mental illness. “However by July 2009 it is clear that they were actually looking after people with those needs plus considerable physical and nutritional needs that they simply could not manage.”

What is the point of inspections if they fail to connect?  If only the CQC would talk to and listen to the relatives of people with dementia – many of whom are at the end of their tether trying to achieve an acceptable standard of care for their loved ones with dementia – tragedies of this kind would no longer be happening.  But the CQC, and its predecessor, and local authorities and social services – to name but a few – seem to bend over backwards to ignore the pleas that come from family, but bend over backwards to preserve and protect the inefficient care industry.

BBC News has just picked up the same story.

At the risk of sounding trite, if these atrocities were happening to animals, there would be a public riot.

Mr Cameron, are we all in this together too?  Or is it just vulnerable elderly people with dementia who are in it?

Mr Cameron, you said today at your Conference “Fairness means giving people what they deserve“. 

Mr Cameron, be fair, then, and give elderly people in residential care the good care they deserve.  Otherwise your words are meaningless,.

The systems of protection need to change overnight.

Systems of protection need to be created.

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Intermittent connections in the world of dementia and care

There is what is known as a ‘major Service Outage’ in my part of the UK, and many of us are struggling with creepingly slow broadband connections – all are up the creek without a paddle for the foreseeable future, and no amount of troubleshooting has so far been able to sort us all out.  I’m told I have an intermittent connection, but no boffin has so far been able to create the constant connection that I need.  And as those strangely disconnected moments turned into hours, then days and now weeks, we have all been driven to distraction.  So, many micro filters have been changed, routers powered down and powered up, settings have all been checked, lines tested … and so on.  The systems have all had a thorough MOT.

But the brain behind the broadband can’t send the right signals to the right place at the right time for a meaningful, reliable and constant connection to be established.

Just like dementia.

When the brain’s working properly all those little electrical impulses work their way along the nerves to and from parts of your body and parts of your brain.  The neurotransmitters help those signals to jump across the gaps between the nerve cells.  And language, movement, problem solving and memory all work according to plan, according to the blueprint.  The connections remain constant.

But, with Alzheimer’s disease, the brain shrinks as the number of nerve cells in the brain reduces.  You can’t grow new nerve cells, so as more and more cells die away, the problems of dementia increase.  The neurotransmitters are reduced too so they can’t send the same signals.  The intermittent connections begin to surface.

The brain needs a good supply of blood – via blood vessels – for it to function, but if the vascular system in the brain becomes damaged, because of diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems perhaps, or a stroke, the blood can’t reach the brain cells, so they eventually die.  And then along comes Vascular Dementia to wreak havoc.  More intermittent connections surface.

It’s 100 years since Alois Alzheimer first described Alzheimer’s.  Very little of Alzheimer’s teachings had to be revised and, though 100 years older today, they have not been corrected or amended but only confirmed.  Alois Alzheimer was apparently an optimist.

Dementia is the word we use to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by disease, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease.  Vascular Dementia is the second most common form of dementia.

Dementia is degenerative, and the speed of decline varies. A person will become repetitive both in speech and movement, will look in a mirror and fail to recognise their own image, will also fail to recognise their own family and friends, will lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks (the so-called activities of daily living or ADLs), will often become verbally and/or physically aggressive, will become agitated, may suffer hallucinations and delusions, will gradually suffer severe memory loss, will often lose their speech entirely and in the latter stages they will lose the ability to swallow, the ability to move, the ability to breathe.

Dementia leads to death.  There is no cure.

For some unexplained reason, Dementia is  seen at present as a problem requiring social care rather than health care.  And that is where the intermittent connections in the world of dementia and care really begin to show themselves.

Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister and Liberal Democrat MP, had a crack at local authorities for jumping the gun and making cuts in care support ahead of next month’s public spending review.  He also told Community Care that “Every local authority has a responsibility to do its best to make efficiencies and protect the frontline – there are better ways they can do this than salami-slicing and slash and burn.”    I can only agree with him when it comes to salami-slicing – if only because I can think of a few salamis that I’d like to slice, all currently involved in the care industry and in the dementia care industry.

Mr Burstow is also upset by the low uptake of personal budgets.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers published the results of its survey of 800 carers, who care unpaid for a sick and disabled family member, and found that over half (53%) of all carers who work earn less than £10,000 a year, with three-fifths (60%) having to spend all of their savings to support the person they care for. 89% say that they are financially worse off as a result of caring and, consequently, almost two-fifths (39%) fear they will lose their home.  Broke and broken: Carers battle poverty and depression.

Read these Quotes from Carers – the intermittent connections in the world of care are clear to see.

Today, Stephen Dorrell – the new Chairman of the House of Commons health committee – has urged politicians to face up to the way in which vulnerable elderly people are being forced to pay for medical care, health care, all because of the redrawing of the boundaries between health care and social care, without proper debate or scrutiny.

The debate surrounding NHS Continuing Healthcare – which is healthcare fully funded by the NHS, in any ‘setting’ so in hospital, in a care home, in one’s own home, in a caravan or even on a double-decker bus (privately owned, of course!) – is something that most people never need to come into close contact with, unless and until they or their relatives are old, and/or with health needs.  And especially, unless and until they develop dementia.  Then, for some strange reason, the connections of the professionals suddenly resemble our broadband problems: fully funded, but fully intermittent.

Many people are denied the human right to return from hospital to their home, by healthcare professionals and by social services.  They’re told they need ‘nursing care’ 24/7 in a care home.  They are then offered by the NHS £100 towards the cost of that nursing care, the Nursing Care Contribution.  But they are then also forced to pay £3500 per month or more for residential care, often shabby and sordid residential care.

All because they have health needs that are such that they can no longer live an independent life.  Residential care is the choice of last resort for so many people, because they can no longer be cared for at home.  And that applies especially to those with dementia.

They are often forced to sell their own homes – or rather their family is forced to sell the home, because by this time, the person needing 24/7 care is in no position to do so themselves – to pay the extraordinary costs of residential care.  Extraordinary costs, because nobody is ever given a breakdown of that cost, but it’s not normally a fair charge.  The quality of care provided is rubbish in many care homes, with enormously inflated charges, enormously inflated pre-admission promises of care, enormously low-paid workers, mostly immigrant workers, enormously low standards of training, especially dementia training.  But enormous profits for the care home industry.  (see the CQC announcement today today about some of the sordid care homes and agencies it has forced to close.  Many  other sordid care homes and agencies have survived the CQC axe – but only just, and only thanks to some very closely woven and constant connections.  There’s little chance of their connections becoming intermittent.)

The hoops and hurdles that have to be faced by those who challenge the decision-making process (also known as the National Framework for NHS Continuing Healthcare) are so complex and complicated that the so-called professionals can’t even work their way through them all.  And then the family members who find the inner strength to challenge it all are forced to spend years, and years and years being humiliated by the Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Social Services (SS).  It comes to resemble a game without rules, like Snakes & Ladders with venom-filled snakes hissing and spitting at the poor souls who try to climb the rungless ladders.

Except that there are rules.  There are legally binding rules that should not be broken.  But they are being wilfully broken, by the NHS, the PCTs, and the SS.  Aided and abetted by governments, one after the other.  They are all in it together, to paraphrase David Cameron.

“We are clear about what we must do … in a way that protects the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society, in a way that unites our country rather than divides it, and in a way that demonstrates that we are all in this together. Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on the economy, Milton Keynes, 7 June 2010,

Dementia is an extraordinary disorder of the brain, a disease of the brain, a most devastating illness, for which there is no cure.  People die of and with dementia.  But dementia is not being acknowledged as a disease, an illness, a destructive force, removing from a previously capable and competent human being each and every single quality that defines a human being.

We as a civilised country ought by now to have found a way to create the constant, reliable connection between needs and service provision.  Dementia care still suffers from a ‘major service outage’ of a kind that paralyses those with dementia and their family members caring for and about them.

I am sick and tired of reading, hearing and watching our government, our ministers, our politicians, our healthcare professionals, our social care professionals and so on, all cry out in shock horror about the problems of caring for the elderly that we are facing, but they continue to do nothing to correct the ills of their ill-defined system.  Actions speak louder than words.  If we really are all in this together, then we should not be so lily-livered about sharing the responsibility for it together, via taxation.   All that is required is for the connection to be made, between health needs and care.  Between dementia and care.

After all, tomorrow it could be any one of us – even you – with dementia and needing care.

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Filed under abuse, Alzheimer's, care, care fees, care homes, dementia, dementia care, law, liability, Local Authority, NHS, NHS Continuing Healthcare, politics, professional responsibility, social work

Care UK’s former chairman joins Osborne spending panel


No surprises here:

George Osborne has recruited four City figures to join a “red team” of experts to puncture the Treasury consensus on the spending review, as he seeks inspiration for cuts that are causing mounting friction in Whitehall.

The chancellor has asked the bankers and financiers to act as the main figures from outside government on his “independent challenge group”, which has a remit to question the unquestionable in the Treasury’s austerity drive.

The four are Adrian Beecroft, one of the founders of Apax Partners, the private equity group; Douglas Flint, finance director of HSBC; Richard Sharp, the former head of the Goldman Sachs European private equity arm; and John Nash, a founder of the Sovereign Capital buy-out group and  chairman of Care UK, the nursing home group.

Mr Beecroft, Mr Sharp and Mr Nash are Tory donors, and some of them have been on good terms with Mr Osborne for some time.

I’m not too sure about their ‘red’ credentials though.   Correction: Nash was until recently chairman of Care UK; he stood down in March this year, very recently.

The FT forgot to mention the mounting disgust in territory outside of Whitehall.  That pre-nuptial agreement between Clegg and Cameron may need to be dusted off soon – due to mounting friction elsewhere too.

The Cameron Clegg Coalition.  The CCC isn’t working the way it could have worked.

Cameron, Clegg and Co plumb the depths, as Andrew Lansley rests on holiday, but soon to return – Lansley is being blamed in No 10 for failing to spot the political consequences of scrapping milk for the under-5s.

Seventeen Lib Dem MPs are fairly fragile – apparently – and that’s one third of your Parliamentary Party, Nick Clegg.

The mood of the public is …. moodily swinging against the Coalition.  At the risk of repeating myself: no surprises there!

What a bunch!  Are they all aliens from another planet, with no feeling for us, mere earthlings that we be?  A new broom sweeps clean, but this broom will soon begin to shed bristles.   The lost souls of the electorate will all need  a strategically positioned upward-pointing besom broom to ward off witches and to protect from evil spirits.

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The Coalition Government’s plans to privatise the NHS

A miscellany of comments on the Coalition’s plans to privatise the NHS by stealth and deception:

Seumas Milne writes in the Guardian: We cannot allow the end of the NHS in all but name. “In reality, Lansley’s health white paper opens the door to the comprehensive privatisation of healthcare and the end of the NHS as a national service.”  “The bottom line of this is the abolition of the NHS,” Dr David Price of Edinburgh University argues. “It will remove the government’s duty to provide a universal healthcare service.” His colleague, Professor Allyson Pollock, believes it will lead to “full privatisation”.”

Unison, Unite, Allyson Pollock and David Price, Denis Campbell of the Guardian , Martin Rathfelder of the Socialist Health Association all fear the same bleak future for the NHS – they can’t all be wrong, can they?

Essex County Council is having talks with Chelmsford-based Care UK about the fears local people have as a result of the budget cuts.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance Town Hall Rich List puts Essex County Council chief executive Joanna Killian on £265,000 a year – the highest-paid council boss in the country – so they’re watching closely.

Crop of the North – who describes himself as a lad from the North West sticks – asks What are they doing to our country? : “So the polite formalities have been done away with and the Tory Democrats are instigating a new period of Class War. We’ve already had the ‘get on your bike’ rhetoric, so consider this an extension in awfulness – new government, new politics folks!”

And suddenly, you’re reminded that there are a few MPs who care – so thanks Barbara Keeley – MP for Worsley and Eccles South – for introducing a Bill to Parliament to improve support for carers. “In Salford, nearly one quarter of unpaid carers are caring for more than 50 hours per week. Caring at this level takes a toll on the health of the carers, who are twice as likely to suffer ill health as other carers. Those caring for someone suffering from dementia or stroke disease are even more at risk of increased ill-health.  It is vital that GPs identify all such carers and offer them health checks and refer them for advice and support.” Good luck, I really wish you the very best of luck with your initiative.  It is long overdue, especially in the world of dementia care.

I wonder whether the same care will be found in all those companies who are waiting, panting, with their tongues out, for the opportunity to gobble up the bounty of the contracts soon to be made available via local authorities and in the privatised NHS, courtesy of the Coalition government.

Said it before, and I’ll say it again: we are surprised by and disappointed in you, Nick Clegg.  We are not surprised by but disappointed in you, David Cameron.  I hope you don’t get away with this savage attack.  No wonder you got together and arranged a secret “you can’t throw us out for years to come” pact.  Watch this space!

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Filed under care, Care UK, dementia care, NHS