Where real neglect lies

The children’s green paper has prompted much discussion about
society’s kneejerk stereotyping as victims or demonising of
children, and the fact that they still rarely have any real say in
decisions that affect them.

All true, but the neglect of children is tempered by their inherent
appeal, our love of “innocence”, and the fact that many parents
would do anything for their own children and are easily and deeply
disturbed by the suffering of other people’s. And despite their
shortcomings, professionals have long excluded themselves from
society’s ambivalence towards children. Yes, there’s a long way to
go, but consulting children and concern for their rights have a
history of a decade or more in social care and related

Comparing this with the situation of older people highlights true
neglect and indifference. The low value placed on older people’s
well-being is even institutionalised in the professions working
with them, as a front-line worker’s angry letter to Community
this week testifies.

Older people’s services generate plenty of noise, but it’s all
about money. Agencies and practitioners play out old conflicts
ignited in the early 1990s, leaving older people in the middle of
debates about “health” or “social care” baths and other nonsense,
which would be comical if it weren’t so grotesque. Research this
week confirms what Community Care stated long ago: the NHS
has wrongly and illegally charged thousands of older people for
continuing care.

This week’s report by the Association of Directors of Social
Services and the Local Government Association, All Our
, aims to make sense of the funding of older people’s
services, and sets out a framework in which services could be
developed around older people’s needs. But powerful forces stand in
its way. First, finance: there simply isn’t enough money in the
system. Second, priorities and targets: while NHS waiting lists and
the blocked beds that feed them are the paramount concern,
indicators of wellbeing and outcomes for older people will never
hold sway.

The report deserves support. It is about the preservation of social
care values in older people’s services. Let’s hope it’s more than
wishful thinking.

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