Inside Out: caring for the elderly

Controller of English Regions

Controller, English Regions David Holdsworth writes about Inside Out, the regional current affairs programme for England. 

Inside Out spans 11 regional editions across England. The programmes devote 30 minutes of high quality journalism to stories relevant to audiences in the local area. Since its launch, audiences have grown, reaching 3.4million for the last series. We know that audiences really value investigations that are rooted in their localities and want to see us holding those in power locally to account. 

Our programmes have investigated many important stories over the years, from illegal taxis in Berwick, the illegal trade in kidneys that led to “transplant tourists” from the West Midlands through to the heart rending story of Wiltshire man Jamie Merrett who had his life support machine switched off by a nurse who didn't know what she was doing. 

The 22nd series of the regional current affairs series, Inside Out, starts tonight with an investigation into one of the biggest issues facing families today - who will care for us when we get old? 

The personal story told this evening by Inside Out in the West Midlands and East Midlands is one that will touch the lives of most families in England today. Peter Taylor's elderly mother Dorothy was frail and in need of daily care. Peter was his mother's main carer, he visited her every day and took care of her needs, but there came a point when he felt that he needed support and respite. So he contacted his local council's social services department to get a care package set up for her through an agency contracted by the council to provide care in the home. For two days carers simply didn't turn up and Dorothy was left to fend for herself. Dorothy Taylor died less than two weeks after social services took charge of her care, although at an inquest a doctor revealed care workers could not have saved Dorothy Taylor's life, even if they'd done their job properly. Peter Taylor wanted the Inside Out West Midlands team to help him find out why the care industry failed his mother and whether he should have done more to protect her. 

Elderly care is one of the biggest social issues of our age and yet there is no obvious solution. Faced with an ageing population and a squeeze on public finances, politicians of all parties seem to agree on one thing - that the state simply cannot afford to go on picking up the bill for elderly care. 

This problem becomes even harder to grapple with when you consider the fact that it is different in every part of the U.K. Life expectancy rates and demographic profiles vary dramatically, as do levels of family support. People in different regions are coming up with their own solutions to the particular problems they face. 

That's why the new series of Inside Out on BBC1 is uniquely placed to investigate this vitally important issue through impartial journalism and examination of the issues. 

Inside Out looks at some radical solutions to the problem of funding elderly care in the future.


The first edition of the current affairs show looks at the national picture with a film by BBC Home Affairs editor Mark Easton shown across all regions in England. In it, former cabinet minister David Blunkett warns that families, neighbours and 'younger older people' will have to take a more active role in caring for people in their old age. Mr Blunkett says no politician will dare suggest raising taxes to cover the rising of elderly care, meaning society as a whole must find the solution. Mark Easton’s film will also look at some innovative ideas for tackling the issue. Each region will examine elderly care in their area with a specially commissioned film looking at a particular aspect of elderly care. These films will consider local authority finances, housing shortages, innovative volunteer schemes or particular social issues created by an ageing population, as the story of Peter Taylor exemplifies. 

For me, this is where Inside Out comes into its own. It not only illustrates our regional diversity, but demonstrates the commitment of the BBC to get under the skin of some of the biggest issues in their areas - whether they live in Cumbria or Cornwall.

 David Holdsworth is Controller, English Regions 

Inside Out, Series 22, starts on 15th October at 7.30pm on BBC One. More information about the programme is available on the Media Centre and Inside Out websites

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