The Equality and Human Rights Commission has found evidence of “systematic failure” in the provision of council-funded home care…

The report which is partly based on the experiences of 1,200 older people, their friends and family, found examples of treatment that including cases of physical and financial abuse. Findings included carers neglecting tasks because councils paid for too little of their time. There was also a chronic disregard for older people’s privacy and a disregard for clients’ dignity when carrying out intimate tasks.

Some instances of care appeared to be less about neglect and more about cruelty. The commission reported some care workers placed food in “front of older deaf/blind people, but did not let them know it was there, or left it in an inaccessible place”.

There was also reporting of sporadic violence against the elderly and the infirm. “The cumulative impact on older people can be profoundly depressing and stressful: tears, frustration, expressions of a desire to die and feelings of being stripped of self-worth and dignity – much of which was avoidable…”

Yes, that’s right: “expressions of a desire to die”.

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for care and older people, said: “The government is cutting funding for older people’s social care by £1.3bn in real terms [in] this parliament. These cuts are pushing the system to breaking point. Eight out of 10 councils are now only providing care for those with substantial and critical needs, and 15 minute home visits are all too often becoming the norm.”

This is merely part of the national disgrace that is our provision of care to the aged and disabled. We can hope the spot checks that the Care Quality Commission have announced they’ll undertake will relieve this problem. Still, if incompetence, neglect, and abuse are endemic as they and the EHRC have suggested we’ll need something more dramatic. There aren’t just a few rotten apples to be picked; this tree’s decayed at its roots.

It was Ghandi who said that a nation’s greatness can be measured by how it treats its weakest members. And, if you’re not moved by this, I’d simply remind you that we’re living longer and one day it might be you in need of care.

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