Social Services Under Fire After OAP’s Death

Councillors and pensioners’ rights campaigners have blasted social services for failing an 85-year-old who collapsed and died from hypothermia. Despite being called by a concerned shop owner, who had witnessed how ill Claude Reginald Jones was, they refused to intervene without the man’s consent.

Jill Standard, director of adult social care for Cumbria County Council, said they had asked the caller, newsagent Magalie Ghuman of Ghuman’s newsagents, Buccleuch Street, Barrow, to pop around and speak to the Carlisle Street pensioner to see if he would contact them. But she said she was reluctant to intervene.

One of Mr Jones’s three Central ward councillors, Edith Garside, said the council policy shouldn’t be in place. She said: “I think it’s just wrong. Why if they are told someone needs help, should they not go? It’s their duty. If they went along and the person turned them away then fine. This should be looked into. It shouldn’t be in place. If this policy doesn’t change, people will be dying tag lag. Words fail me.”

Kenneth and Margie Arts, chairman and secretary of the Barrow Pensioners’ Association, also slammed the social services policy, saying help should be given regardless of whether they asked for it. Mr Arts added: “If they are contacted for help for someone they should go to the house, knock at the door and then speak to the person and assess if they need help or if they want it. What happens if you’re lying on the floor after a stroke and can’t actually ask for help yourself? Do they just not do anything? It’s wrong.”

Another Central ward councillor, 71-year-old Mary Irwin, said: “I think they should have gone. Surely the most important thing here was saving his life, not rules and regulations. To be honest they should go and see someone elderly no matter how little the problems. Mind you, when you get elderly you are not that important.”

In response, Ms Standard said: “As reported, the shop keeper who contacted us, with the very best of intentions, had not asked the man before doing so and felt reluctant to seek his permission afterwards. Other than in instances where mental health or allegations of abuse are involved, those thousands of people know that the support we offer is on their terms and, most importantly, at their request. We have to recognise that some people may choose to live their lives in a manner that may not always be in their best interests.”

She added that they did not operate a system where they could knock on a person’s door simply at the request of another individual without their consent. She added: “Our role as a service that respects the rights of adults to make their own choices and lead independent lives would be jeopardised. We will never interfere in an adult’s life without their consent and equally will never shirk from offering support to those who decide that they may need our help.”