Older people’s care ‘a breach of human rights’


Older people who rely on care and support in their homes are having their human rights breached because of “major problems” in the system, according to the equality and human rights watchdog.

People are being left in bed for more than 17 hours between care visits, while others are not washed properly or given enough help to eat and drink.

Some are being left in soiled beds and clothes for long periods, while high staff turnover means many older service-users have a “huge number” of different care workers performing their personal care. One woman recorded 32 different care workers visiting her in just two weeks.

Because homecare visits can be as short as 15 minutes, some older people have to choose between being washed or having a cooked meal, with many having no control over the time of their visit.

The evidence was released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is conducting an inquiry into how well the system of care and support at home in England is protecting and promoting the human rights of people over 65.

One in five older people who responded to the EHRC’s call for evidence said they would not complain about poor care because they didn’t know how to, or because they feared “repercussions”.

The final report will be published in November. The EHRC said it would use the findings to influence the government’s white paper on adult social care, which is also due later this year.

Disabled activist Anne Novis said Bromley council had refused to fund more than 14 hours of support a week for her mother Jean if she remained living at home, even though she was offered an assisted living placement with round-the-clock support.

Novis said: “As soon as you become an older person your rights seem to go out of the window. The independent living ethos is not carried through for older people.

“There is not time to talk with her, encourage her to do things, go out socialising. Just because you are older, doesn’t mean you suddenly cannot do things or go out.

“I have seen it happen to friends of mine who have reached that age limit and their hours are immediately cut because they are older.”

A Bromley council spokeswoman said the care package agreed “was designed to meet Mrs Novis’s mother’s assessed needs”.

She added: “If her needs have changed or if she or her family have concerns around the care plan then this can be reviewed.

“Increasingly, those with care needs and their families are arranging their own care through a direct payment, which can provide greater flexibility and control over the way in which care is provided.”

Novis has asked for an emergency reassessment of her mother’s needs, but she said a direct payment was not practical because it was impossible to find a care worker to visit three times a day for such short periods of time.

22 June 2011