Responding to the forthcoming Panorama programme (Monday 23 April) uncovering yet more abuse of an elderly care home resident living with dementia, Kay Steven of the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance (OPAAL), said: “Older people in these situations simply do not have a voice. Left unsupported many older people are unable to complain, offer a view on the type and nature of care they need to receive or have a clear understanding of the quality of service they have a right to expect.”
OPAAL’s 160 member organisations provide this voice through independent advocacy support to older people. This support enables the voices of older people to be heard by those in power to make decisions affecting the very fabric of their lives. The independent nature of advocacy support enables older people to be informed of what they might expect from their care and are frequently supported to lodge complaints against providers and commissioners when this falls short of expected levels of care.
Kath Parson, OPAAL’s Chief Executive, said: “We are deeply concerned although no longer shocked which is in itself a sad state of affairs by the Panorama expose, as this is becoming an all too familiar state of affairs. We have been talking of the needs of our rising elderly population since 1983 – thirty years later we still cannot protect those most in need of our care. It is clear that on this occasion the Care Quality Commission, the organisation entrusted with upholding standards of care, has failed to protect elderly people from the shocking abusive treatment this programme has uncovered We need to do more to provide services that meet the very real needs of older people living with dementia, particularly those living in care.”
On 26 March 2012 the Prime Minister laid down his challenge for dementia services, in it he refers to the advances made since the 2009 National Dementia Strategy was launched, however none of these advances refer to actual one to one support of individuals, they focus on memory services, commissioning packs and a new Dementia Alliance. The dementia strategy revised under the new government focuses on four elements, one of which is Living Well With Dementia in care Homes, it is clear it has some way to go to deliver on this. The document concludes that by 2015 every person with dementia will be able to say “I get the treatment and support which are best for my dementia and my life, I know what I can do to help myself and who else can help me. My community is working to help me live well with dementia”. This ambitious goal is unlikely to be reached unless older people are independently supported to obtain the treatment and services they need and have a right to expect. There are thousands of older people in care open to this type of abuse they need our support.
Last year the Older People’s Commissioner in Wales launched a formal review into the provision of independent advocacy provision for older people in care in Wales. Due to report in the summer we expect this report to highlight the value of independent advocacy to older care home residents including as a deterrent to abuse.
OPAAL calls for the government to intervene and ensure that:
- A right to advocacy for all older people should be retained in the new social care law, it should then be implemented giving the right of an offer of advocacy to all older people in health and social care settings, including their homes.
- Health and Social Care Commissioners are required to support the development of independent advocacy schemes for all older people.
- Care Home Providers be required to work in cooperation with advocacy schemes in establishing policies, protocols and procedures.
- Government promotes the role of independent advocacy with older people in all health and social care settings.
- The Prime Ministers key commitments 10 and 13 to further money for research includes social action research to investigate the beneficial effects of independent advocacy provision to care home residents