Have your say

To recognise Community Care’s ‘Care in the
Capital’ week (17-21 June) the Have your say debate is on the
subject of the recruitment crisis of social care staff in

We ask: What do you think should be done to attract more
people into social work posts in London?

Take part in the Care in the Capital campaign by
here to
give your comments.

All responses will be posted in this section of the website on
21 June.


A recent Have your say debate focused on the issue of
attitudes towards older gay men and lesbians. We asked how can care
homes be made friendlier to homosexuals, and should we have
separate care homes for them?

These are the responses we received:

Back in the 1980s I took up my first post
managing a care home for older people.

I was made aware of two women who had previously shared a
bedroom but had been split up. Their notes stated “inappropriate
behaviour”, an entry signed by the previous manager. I was further
startled by the fact that medication had been used (and we’re not
talking Viagra here). When I arrived both women were
uncommunicative and clearly unhappy, but I noticed they became
suddenly animated when sitting near each other in the dining room.
When I questioned a senior care assistant she told me: “They are
queer”. Well, I thought, that’s alright then!

My actual response to her was: “So am I, so what?” Needless to
say I moved them back in together, and used staff meetings to
discuss issues around sexuality, privacy and the right to be in
relationships. Things improved, the couple were obviously enjoying
each other in whatever way they chose but, some staff still found
it something to snigger about when they thought I was out of

It is rather depressing to think this still happens in 2002. Of
course training is important as is the existence of a robust equal
opportunities policy.

But, at the end of the day, those staff who continue to find
difficulty accepting sexual activity (gay or straight) amongst
their residents should be encouraged to take their attitude and
their P45 elsewhere.

Personally, as a gay man, if I ever need residential care when I
get older I hope to find a more enlightened place ……… and
preferably a place where some like minded talent is

Mark Whitbread

In speaking of the homophobic managers comment
about ‘dirty pervs’ an attempt is made at explaining why the couple
were holding hands; why say the manager didn’t know that one of the
women was feeling unwell and needed her partner to steady her? (see
Community Care 30 May- 5 June page 31).

If a heterosexual couple wanted to hold hands they wouldn’t need
to explain or be ill!

Sue Davis

I am now a qualified social worker, however I
was previously a care assistant in a residential home for the
elderly. This home was fortunate enough to have 2 lesbians and one
gay man amongst the 50 or so staff. We were able to be ‘out’ about
our sexuality, e.g. take our same sex partners to social events at
the home. The effect of this was that it made it possible for both
residents and staff to be open about their sexuality.

Some residents were gay, some had friends who were gay, some had
family who were gay. There are hundreds of small ways that homes
can become more gay-friendly, but a big start is for management and
staff to be comfortable and open about the issues.

What reading material is available, what images are presented,
what language is used, what events are the focus of

If one in 10 of us are gay, then almost every home must have gay
people among staff, residents, visitors. The big question is do
they feel safe to come out of the closet?

Pamela Woodroffe

It seems that one of the major difficulties
about this is that the gay issue has a major problem in that it can
be invisible if required. Consequently a lot of people will not
concern themselves with the quality of life of older gays and

The difficulty with training in my experience is that the people
who are ok about this issue do not realise that in fact society
still has a big problem with it. These “ok” people do not demand or
attend any training because they do not have a problem and do not
consider themselves homophobic. They do not take the time, however
to understand the problems faced by the people themselves. Those
people who do have a problem about gays and lesbians do not think
that they have a problem and as there is little training are not
encouraged to attend to be enlightened to simply respect
difference, and not to make uninformed judgements about others.

Until this part of social work and other care professional’s
training gives this issue equal status to other areas the changes
needed to ensure that people are given equal respect in their old
age will happen very, very slowly.

Alison Woolley

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.