The Care and Support Alliance is a network which includes over 80 of the UK’s leading charities with elderly and social care agendas. In a May survey, the CSA uncovered what it called “the damning reality of a care system that is visibly failing and unfit for purpose”.

The survey, released in June, revealed that due to a lack of care or provision:

  • 1 in 5 felt unsafe moving around their own home, and 4 in 10 can’t leave it.
  • 1 in 5 said they’ve gone without meals.
  • 1 in 8 said they’ve been delayed leaving hospital because of not being able to get the care they need.
  • Over a quarter have been unable to maintain basics like washing, dressing, visiting the toilet.
  • Over 1 in 7 (16%) have had their care packages reduced, even though their needs have increased or stayed the same.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK and co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, points out that the complexity and disconnectedness of the England health and social care system means that “the NHS is picking up the bill as people are pushed into ill health and crisis because of a lack of basic help”.

The government’s key response to the report, an upcoming Green Paper, has also been delayed.

But the complexities of financial resourcing which have made the biggest news are only part of the story. Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society and co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, summed up the challenge when he said “Regardless of someone’s condition or age people should be getting care so they can live safely and with dignity”.

At a time when carer visits, for example, are pushed to minimum time slots of as little as 15 minutes – in 2016 one carer reported making 23 house calls in 12 hours for under £65.00 in pay – dignity is often the first thing to suffer.

But this is not always a financial challenge. Treating the elderly, infirm and those with special needs with dignity is often a case of attitude and approach rather than financial resources, and can be improved with appropriate training.

As a reminder, here are Carewatch’s “Four ways to provide dignity”:

  • Provide choice: on factors like timings, clothing, food and TV. Choice means keeping service users involved in the decision-making process, too.
  • Communication: treat service users as equals.
  • Focus on maintaining dignity during personal care.
  • Respect personal belongings: including the home or environment. Ask permission before intruding on or disrupting possessions.

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