Friday 19 October 2018
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Riot, looting and social care

The recent news has been dominated by riot and looting. Focus is no longer on social care since the fuss died down over Panorama’s exposure of Winterbourne View. For a few days, care homes were in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The Cabinet return (all expenses paid) from their foreign holidays to parade their outrage and concern, and to sound off in parliament for a day. Thieving, arson, assault and murder by gangs of young people have been gathering pace for years, and while it was largely confined to poor areas, it wasn’t a problem for government. Disorder spilled out of control with dreadful consequences for the victims, but it was interesting to hear the boss of JD Sports saying that the perpetrators were his “customers” and he’d get the looted shops stocked, re-opened and selling again as soon as possible. Sounds like two sides of the same coin to me.

To knowingly ignore obvious social problems and then to hold your hands up in horror and deny all responsibility is dishonest. In the same dishonest way the health and social care establishment professed shock and amazement when the abuse at Winterbourne View was revealed. CQC should have known what was going on there because they inspected the place, but, given the crass incompetence of CQC, let’s take their word for it that they hadn’t a clue what was going on. Their failure to respond to repeated warnings that abuse was taking place, as they have failed to do in many other cases, is worse than incompetent; it’s more like callous stupidity and laziness, and very like a care worker repeatedly ignoring a resident’s pleas for help.

If, as a manager, you failed to notice that a resident was being abused (perhaps because you spent too much time in the office supplying “evidence” to CQC that your home was “compliant”) you would be rightly castigated for failure to do your job. If, however, you ignored another care worker who repeatedly reported her colleague for the same abuse, I suggest you would be criminally responsible. So why - Lansley, Burstow and co. - is CQC allowed to continue on its merry way when its failures are so much more widespread and even more serious? CQC has the cheek to tell us all now that they are going to “put boots on the ground” and inspect care homes every year. Brilliant! I wonder why no-one thought of that before? Now we can see why Cynthia Bower is paid £200k a year and has a pension fund worthy of a discredited banker.

So, when the uproar about riot and looting fades, we will be left with housing estates that are not policed, schools that don’t function, rising unemployment and poverty, the absence of adult authority and respect, and inquiries and reports resulting in a plethora of agencies and initiatives (all well funded) that will do nothing about the underlying causes, while feathering their own nests at the expense of the taxpayer. However, everyone will feel a bit better, the “sink” estates and schools will be forgotten . . . until the next time.

Post Winterbourne View and CQC’s (shock horror) discovery that half Castlebeck’s homes don’t comply with the standards, Burstow has asked Carers UK chief executive Imelda Redmond to examine how the quality of social care can be raised. She will report by Christmas (this year!). I do not question Imelda Redmond’s integrity and qualifications, but haven’t we had quite enough excellent reports over the last thirty years into how the quality of social care can be raised? We know how to make care homes work so for God’s sake let’s get on with it. The work of My Home Life <> gives a clear direction: concentrate on the needs of residents and put managers in the lead, creating caring communities and teams, getting on with the job in hand. I would add: cut out the unnecessary bureaucracy and make inspection local, responsive and accessible, supporting good practice and innovation and preventing poor practice becoming entrenched.

Managing a care home well is hard work and very demanding, but if we strip away all the unnecessary demands foisted on us by outsiders who haven’t a clue and don’t have to face the consequences of their imposed and impractical bright ideas, it’s a wonderfully creative, satisfying and useful job.

John Burton
Head of The Association of Care Managers