Government adviser criticises ‘deplorable’ elderly care

A government adviser for the elderly has admitted that the system for elderly care is not yet working in a “satisfactory” way.

Dame Joan Bakewell is calling for an “instant investigation” into care quality, after a BBC Panorama investigation discovered failings in elderly care.

The BBC programme alleges that old people are being left at home alone for hours without the most basic care because of the way some care providers work.

Two reporters worked undercover in a care home and discovered cases of neglect, poor standards and breaches of regulations.

Dame Joan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the news was “very, very worrying”.

She suggested that the standards of care are below basic standards because of the “rock bottom” costings by private care firms.

And some young carers are afraid to complain about the system in case they lose their jobs, she added.

Dame Joan explained: “They are under enormous pressure, running from one home to another, often in ten minutes, whereas they are meant to have a care plan.

“They are meant to stay for half an hour to give them friendship, comfort as well as the actual needs of the elderly.”

But she stated: “The young carers do care. They mind that they are not able to do their job correctly.”

And Dame Joan warned that contracts are often awarded by councils to private companies who offer the lowest bid.

“The costing is rock bottom,” she stated.

“The carers are paid very lowly. They are only given training, in one case, of three DVDs that lasted 20 minutes.

“They are not monitored to ensure that they are doing the job correctly and some people don’t like to complain because they will lose their jobs instantly. There are many levels at which change needs to operate.

“These are deplorable situations for people to be in. And yet, the private companies running these schemes are in receipt of contracts worth millions of pounds.”

70 per cent of care in the home is now sub-contracted, she stated, with around £1.5bn worth of contracts available.

The government’s special advisor on the elderly continued: “This system is not yet running in a satisfactory way. We need instant investigation into how this could have arisen, to improve the level of carers.”

Councils should “take on board” that they should not always just accept the lowest bidder, Dame Joan stated.

And she called on local authorities to put in place an inspection system for carers visiting the homes of the elderly.

“If that means more money, then so be it,” she said.

Dame Joan, 75, also called on the Care Quality Commission to “beef-up” its activities and introduce spot checks on carers’ operations.