Social Services ‘Clean Out’ Pensioner

An 86 year-old pensioner was left distraught and in tears after possessions were thrown in a skip by social services carers cleaning his home. A five-strong team came to Alec Watson’s home in Hallaway, Carlisle, on Thursday and threw out clothes, bedding, cutlery and toiletries. He was left with a plastic knife, fork and spoon to eat with and spent the night in a sleeping bag because his duvet was in the skip. But Cumbria social services said Mr Watson agreed to his possessions being thrown out and that the matter had been discussed fully with his social worker.

Mr Watson, who lives alone, says he agreed to pay for carers to clean his home but thought they would tidy, vacuum and polish, not throw his things away.

He said: “There was a lot of mess but I thought they were going to tidy up a bit. There was china in the cupboard wrapped in newspaper, they threw that out. I just sat in my chair and didn’t say anything, I didn’t know what to say. When they left, I started crying. I went to have a shave but my shaver and cream were gone.”

Neighbours were so outraged, they refused to allow the skip to be moved. They emptied it the next day and found some of Mr Watson’s diabetic equipment. Among hundreds of other items were his stereo, new washing line, seven pairs of trousers, colander, vacuum cleaner, brush, winter hat and the vegetable drawer from the fridge. Wartime mementoes including a gas mask and first aid box were thrown out together with documents from his 32 years working at 14MU.

He added: “I feel like my home has been invaded. I don’t want anything more to do with social services.”

Social services got in touch with him after concerns were raised that he could not look after himself properly. The clean-up was arranged by his social worker earlier this month and has cost Mr Watson around £500.

Neighbours including Margaret MacDonald often cook and clean for him. She said: “I had to go out and buy him new razors, toiletries and cutlery the next day. When I complained, social services asked us to take what he wanted to keep out of the skip.”

Another neighbour Debbie Butterworth said: “What has happened is disgusting, I can’t believe what I found in that skip.”

Gwen Morley, who discovered Mr Watson crying in his chair after the carers left, said: “He was so distressed. I asked him if he was ok and he said they had broken his chairs and thrown them away.

His neighbours plan to make a formal complaint about the incident and have reinstated many of Mr Watson’s belongings.

Sue Bowman, adult social care area manager for Carlisle, said: “We are sorry to hear that Mr Watson has been upset by the clean up of his house. He agreed to it some time ago and a social worker and care team have visited him several times to discuss and agree the process.

“A team of four women and one man spent the day at Mr Watson’s home and cleaned and tidied the house from top to bottom. The care team were at pains to make sure that he agreed with every step of the process and Mr Watson OK’d the disposal of every item that was thrown away.

“They made his bed up with a clean, lightweight duvet and put some food in his cupboards. When they left Mr Watson said he was very pleased with the work – the care team are now distraught to find out that he is upset.

“Mr Watson’s social worker will be visiting him as soon as possible to see if there is anything we can do to ease his distress.”