Elderly people are treated so badly in the home care system that their human rights are in breach.
This is the damning finding of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report: ‘Close to home: older people and human rights in home care.’
The report, published today, follows a 12 month investigation looking at to what extent public authorities promote and protect the human rights of older people with regards to home based care and support.
Although around half of those who gave evidence expressed real satisfaction with their home care the inquiry also revealed many examples of physical or financial abuse, people being ignored, a disregard for privacy and dignity and failings in support for eating or drinking.
Examples, included a woman being left stuck on the toilet in her bathroom, as the care worker said she was too busy completing the list of care tasks to help her; people with dementia not being prompted to eat or their food ‘hidden’ in the fridge, and a woman who asked for help with her washing up given help washing herself instead.
The report said the ways that older people can complain about their care are insufficient as many people are reluctant to complain for fear of getting a worker in trouble or concerns over repercussions such as a worst standard or care or none at all.
The inquiry reveals the pervasive social isolation experienced by many older people confined to their homes and notes that social activities are the first support services to be withdrawn when local authorities cut spending.
In addition, the Commission raised concerns about the pay and conditions of workers and the low rates that some local authorities pay for home care. Moreover, it said very few local authority contracts for home care specify that the provider must comply with the Human Rights Act. And it called for an update in legislation and regulation to reflect huge shifts in how care is provided.
Sally Greengross, the organisation’s Commissioner said: “It is essential that care services respect people's basic human rights. This is not about burdensome red-tape it is about protecting people from the kind of dehumanising treatment we have uncovered. The emphasis is on saving pennies rather than providing a service which will meet the very real needs of our grandparents, our parents, and eventually all of us.”
Peter Hay, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said the report should not be allowed to ‘cast too deep a shadow over all enterprises looking after vulnerable people at home.”
He commented on the good work going on, in which older people are treated with full dignity, but nonetheless acknowledged ‘a good case’ for bringing home care services within the purview of the Human Rights Act.