Lib Dems round on Department of Health as ‘institutionally ageist’

The Department of Health was slammed last week as institutionally

The claim was made by the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson
who said there was a long way to go to tackling abuse of older
people and ageist attitudes in society and the Department of

Paul Burstow told an Age Concern conference in Birmingham that the
DoH “not only tolerates lower standards in care homes for the
elderly compared with those for children and disabled adults but
actually set those standards”.

The MP called the lack of research in the field “a scandal” – the
most recent report was published in 1992 – and urged the government
to commission a study to gauge elder abuse.

The government’s approach to the issue had been the No
guidance, which provides a framework for developing
multi-agency codes of practice. Although its implementation was
essential if elder abuse was to be detected and tackled, it was
“not sufficient to address the underlying causes”.

Burstow urged there to be a joint inspection of the implementation
of No Secrets by the Commission for Social Care Inspection and
other government agencies, along similar lines as the Safeguarding
Children review published last year.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy warned that the
care home market was a “timebomb”. He told the launch of the
Friends of the Elderly annual review: “The pressure is building. It
would not take much for the sector to move from break-even to

He said the reduction in capacity was forcing older people to move
into care homes “hundreds of miles away from their own communities
and families” which could cause depression and isolation and affect

He also called on the government to reverse its policy of
means-testing those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to see
whether they were eligible for free nursing care, and pledged the
Liberal Democrats would make all personal and nursing care free if

There is a need for streamlining the “bewildering array” of bodies
that provide services for older people, Kennedy added. “People need
a one-stop-shop so that they know where to turn for advice rather
than battle through all this.”

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