Just the other week, a care worker was sentenced to four months in prison, and another two given suspended sentences, for their roles in a catalogue of mistreatment and abuse of people with Alzheimer’s disease at a care home in North Somerset. Despite the introduction of some of the tightest regulations and monitoring in the social care sector, incidents of abuse and ill-treatment of vulnerable groups continue to present in the headlines on a regular basis.
Care in the community in nothing new. The concept has been attributed to the Thatcher government during the early 1980s but the ideas can be sourced back the 50s. Why then, after so long and amid such tight regular does society continue to allow the will full neglect and abuse of our most vulnerable and fragile people?
None of us need rack our brain or look too far to find an example of mistreatment either of elderly people of those with learning disability. It is just over a year ago since the BBCs Panorama program secretly filmed the abuse of people with learning disabilities at the Winterbourne View care home. Residents were treated to the most brutal torture and abuse after their families had entrusted them into the care of Castlebeck, the care company who own the home.
A look at the job pages on a local website usually throws up a large number of care worker jobs both for agencies and individuals covering as wide range of client group. Amid such high levels of unemployment and the number of immigrants coming to this country, the number of vacancies in the care sector compaired to other fields seems disproportional high.
Unfortunately care work is seen as an undesirable career with its long and unsociable hours, usually on low or minimum wage, and often working in a very challenging environment with a difficult client group. Care agencies and organizations tend to have a higher turn over of staff, higher rates of sickness and absenteeism, a result of which means that organizations rely on relief or bank staff. Another obvious impact is that staff are usually not as well trained and a high turnover means less continuity of care for the service users.
Sadly, the biggest losers in this sector are the clients who, more often than not, end up with poor standards of care or in many cases as we have witnessed end up being neglected and abused. Until society starts investing in people, and the people who care for them, we will continue to fail, neglect and marginalize our most vulnerable members of society.
Maybe its time to stop awarding care contracts to private companies who’s primary purpose is to make money, rather than being in the business to care for people. Vulnerable people need to no longer be seen as a cash cow but rather as a group that we all share in the social responsibility for. They need highly trained and motivated staff to care for them and, if this means the state investing money, it will be every penny well spent. As well as being trained appropriately staff need to be remunerated accordingly and paid a living wage instead of the minimum. We need to make care a desirable profession to go into where staff are employed because they want to care, and want to stay in their job. This in turn would result in a lower rate of absenteeism, and higher retention of highly trained and motivated staff. Vulnerable people deserve nothing less than the highest standard of care and protection but without significant sector change, we might continue to witness such appalling examples of abuse and neglect.