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TUSC NHS 2012 'credit card': The Health & Social Care Act means privatisation and cuts
The struggle for decent social care - a personal account
Over the last few decades Britain's social care system has been bundled up and sold off to the private sector. At the same time savage cuts have taken place. Occasional scandals - like Southern Cross - give a glimpse of the nightmare that exists for millions of people who have to make use of the social care sector. As cuts and privatisation continue to bite - increasingly affecting the NHS as well as social care - a catastrophe is being created.
Ann Parkes, describes her family's desperate struggle to gain access to decent care for her husband, Alf Parkes:
Alf, my husband, was diagnosed 24 years ago with Parkinson's disease. Then later he also began to suffer from dementia. At first it was just little things like seeing things in the cupboard that weren't there but later he tried to attack me with a bread knife and threatened to break my jaw. He got out on one occasion and was wandering on the main road. For ten years I had no assistance looking after him and have been literally looking after him myself 24/7. In that time I had one holiday when my kids came and looked after him. I was left with no support.
It reached a point where I could no longer bathe him. He fell on me in the bathroom. My head cracked on the wall splitting my head open and I suffered fractured vertebrae and was hospitalised. Alf was on the floor for 20 minutes until my son could get there to get him up.
Alf then went into respite care in a local care home. I want him to come home again temporarily because he was third on the waiting list for a good care home for ex-service men. But for that I needed a care package put in place before he came home because I couldn't cope anymore. Then there were arguments between Birmingham and Solihull Social Services about who was going to be responsible. During that period he deteriorated. The home he was in for respite couldn't keep him anymore. I had been hospitalised again and so he was sent by social services to a care home called Jubilee Gardens.
It is a private care home; social services moved him there because it was the only bed they could get. But that home, when we subsequently looked, failed the Care Quality Commission's assessment on every single point. He was only there for a couple of weeks but when we took him out my kids had to carry him out to the car, and he looked like death. He'd lost so much weight. My children had repeatedly found him lying in bed in urine and faeces. His congealed breakfast was still found there after lunchtime and he had grown a beard. He's never had a beard in his life, he is 76 years old, but they hadn't shaved him.
It was clear he wasn't being given his medication. I rang one night and spoke to the deputy manager. I asked if he had been given his medication and she said she had been with the nurse when she gave it to him an hour ago. Little did she know that my sons were there and witnessed her, after she spoke to me, racing off to give him his medication. That was the night I insisted he be taken out of there. We managed to get him a place where he had previously had respite care. That is where he is now.
I complained to the Care Quality Commission about Jubilee Gardens and they referred the complaint back to Solihull council who in turn referred it back to the deputy manager of the home, one of the people the complaint was against! I had asked friends and fellow human rights campaigners to email Social Services demanding a proper investigation into Jubilee Gardens. I was contacted by someone from Social Services who said that, if I didn't stop, they would make sure I was arrested. I then had an intimidating visit from two police officers.
When I went to the police to demand to speak to a senior officer, the woman on the desk said that was impossible, so I lay across the chairs. They locked me up for ten hours! They denied me a phone call, they did a mug shot and fingerprints. No-one knew where I was, I was concerned about my dog. In the cell I fainted and they had to call an ambulance. The paramedics came out and I said I need a phone call and the paramedics asked why I hadn't been given one. It was only then I was allowed to phone my son.
Eventually Jubilee Gardens was investigated by the police. They came out to visit me and said they couldn't bring a criminal case, but I could pursue a civil suit. I can't do that though because of costs. We have also had problems with the DWP stopping all of Alf's money at source even though he still has ongoing expenses - including loans - coming out of his bank account. Lloyds bank has passed the resulting debts onto debt collectors who are now harassing me, which is very stressful.
In the last year I have suffered a perforated ulcer, and nearly died, brought on by the trauma I have suffered. I always promised Alf I wouldn't put him in a home and it is very difficult to come to terms with. Maybe if support care had been available at home I wouldn't have had to. At least if there weren't terrible care homes like Jubilee Gardens I would have felt confident that he was being looked after. Social Services have acted with a total lack of moral responsibility or ethics, going so far as to get the police called on me for whistle blowing. It is time for people to take the power back.
The Socialist Party says:
- Immediately take all health and social care services and buildings back into the public sector, under democratic control, with compensation only paid on the basis of proven need.
- The government should provide the necessary extra funds to local authorities to run care homes.
- For qualified, well-paid public sector staff to work in care homes and provide community support.
- Rebuild the NHS! No to cuts - defend jobs and services
Con-Dems destroying our services
The Con-Dems' cuts in public services are destroying social care. Over the last three years a massive £3.5 billion has been axed.
As a result, nearly 90% of councils in England have stopped providing care to people whose needs are ranked 'low to moderate', says the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass). The cuts are making the care system "unsustainable", says Adass.
Many elderly people with failing health, who depend upon home visits to help with washing, cleaning and cooking, are no longer being supported.
Yet many are completely dependent on council funded care packages, as their disability benefits are used to pay for other essential daily living costs, such as food and heating. Inevitably the health of those requiring care will deteriorate.
And according to a study earlier this year by the Nuffield Trust charity, which researches healthcare, government austerity has meant that:
- Between 2009-10 and 2012-13 spending on social care for older people fell by 15% in real terms from £10.6 billion to £9.8 billion
- Almost 250,000 fewer older people received publicly funded community services in financial years 2012-13 compared to 2009-10, a 26% drop
- Home and day care spending by councils fell by 23% (or £538 million) over the same period
- The number of older people receiving home delivered meals has more than halved since 2009-10
- Transfers of money from the NHS to adult social care have more than doubled since 2009-10. Without these, service cuts in social care could have been even more drastic
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 18 September 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.