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When it comes to care of the elderly are North East councils the meanest around?

Chris Jackson | 19:00 UK time, Monday, 15 October 2012

An elderly person's hand on a walking stick

The Beatles famously asked in one of their songs; "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I'm 64?"

Life expectancy has gone up since they penned the song, but the question hasn't gone away. Just who can we rely on to give us that extra bit of care when we need it?

When I visited a day centre for the elderly in Darlington for our Inside Out investigation into how budget cuts are affecting home care (BBC1 19:30hrs GMT, Monday 15 October 2012) it was clear today's pensioners felt they'd been paying their dues all their lives and they expect the local council to foot the bill.

However with an ageing population and tighter budgets it seems something has to give.

I've been told horror stories of vulnerable older people, some with Alzheimers, who are confronted with an ever-changing succession of carers. Continuity is the least they could hope for when memory is a challenge.

Others have carers who have four 15 minute visits to carry out, but without travel time being factored in it's a mathematical mission impossible.

Councils often employ private companies to carry out home visits for services like cleaning, bathing, and cooking meals for those who want to remain in their own homes, but who need a helping hand. Some of our local authorities are paying only just over £10 an hour - but that's not the carer's wage, it's the total amount a home care company has to recruit, train, pay and manage its staff, never mind the overheads such as carrying out criminal record checks.

The UK Homecare Association which represents providers carried out research that revealed that on average the North East paid less for home care than any other part of Britian (see page 26 of this report).

You can of course exercise your right to take control of the money the council would spend and find your own homecare, but how many people would be prepared to take that on at a time when they are starting to feel vulnerable?

When I spoke to Health Minister Norman Lamb he was suggesting the way to ensure that care is up to standard is to have the home care equivalent of tripadvisor.

People could add their own ratings to the public findings of the regulator, the Care Quality Commission.

Could there be other alternatives though? For our programme the BBC's Home Editor Mark Easton travelled throughout the UK to look at innovative ways of providing healthcare, including a project in York.

It's something that will affect us all in one way or another - whether it's looking after one of our older relatives or having someone look after us.

Care is something we should all care about.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am a registered mental health nurse living in Devon, i found your blog intresting but the carers are affected as well as their clients. for example the time between visits and some of the milage are not paid by these companies, also they exspect carers to pay for crb and while training they dont get paid for this time. if they have a company car it cost them £28 per week before they even start and the hourly rate is minimum wage unless you are considered a senoir carer which is not much both parties are being poorly treated.


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