Replay our discussion of BBC documentary on social work with older people

Two years after Protecting Our Children laid bare the realities of child protection, Protecting Our Parents aims to do the same on older people's care

Betty William and Catherine O'Mahoney
Betty Williams and Catherine O'Mahoney in episode one of Protecting Our Parents

This week saw the first episode of Protecting Our Parents, a three-part BBC documentary on the health and social care of older people.

It depicted the struggles, strains and triumphs of some of the social workers, health professionals and families at the sharp end of helping increasing numbers of older people with multiple conditions stay independent and retain some quality of life.

Community Care hosted a live online discussion on episode one, which followed three people – Betty Williams, Jim Page and Henry Robinson – who are all admitted to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital – following a fall. The key question in each case was whether they can be safely discharged home, with practitioners from Solihull Council’s hospital social work team at the heart of the decision-making, along with the people themselves, their families and doctors.

Replay the live chat below, and join us next Thursday (24 April) at 9pm for episode two.


More from Community Care

9 Responses to Replay our discussion of BBC documentary on social work with older people

  1. Clare April 14, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    When is the online discussion? It’s not clear from this article.

    • mithran samuel
      mithran samuel April 14, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      Sorry if you didn’t find the article to be clear. The discussion will be at 9pm on Thursday 17 April when the programme goes out.

  2. Jill Thomas April 16, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    This will be interesting, so many articles on what is happening out there in hospitals/care homes/etc but very little ‘protection’, transparency and accountability. After caring for my father in our own home for 1 nearly 13 years when I became ill, we were ‘advised’ that he should go into a care home, we had a year of complaining and stress, the shock of what we witnessed and then the complaints system itself was horrendous, let alone the final ‘suffering’ of my father at his lay dying in horrendous pain, whilst we slept on the floor by him (thank God!), we called the oncall Dr who told us not to leave him, and apologized as the home had run out of dia morphine for Dads syringe driver. It was like a living hell out there, having worked with child protection for over 30 years I knew naively thought our elderly generation were cared for and protected in homes…I was wrong! I look forward to the debate.

    • Mavis Smith April 17, 2014 at 7:01 am #

      Never before have we witnessed such unprofessionalism from a social worker who destroyed our family by failing to remain impartial. With no knowledge of mum’s troubled background, she acted as judge and jury and set mum on a path of horrendous abuse and cruelty by someone who was pretending they had POA for her welfare. The social.worker then made it impossible for us to keeep mum safe when she asked us for help. Her last months in a carehome were her abuser withheld all her possessions and memories, forced her to say she never wanted to see her family again, forced an unknown substance into her mouth then injured her and left her bleeding when she was dying and couldn’t defend herself. Getting involved with social services and asking for help was the worst mistake of our lives.

      • Edna April 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

        My experiences of social workers and and their comedy skit called safeguarding of the most vulnerable leaves me in serious ill health, the vulnerable I have a duy of care for having breakdowns and harmed by a state system which is prone to back covering and hiding their poor work by gagging and witholding reports which should be fully in the public domain.

        The directors of these adult services have held and still hold considerable sway in the system and with government…the dangerous leading the blind and harming more than helping (other than themselves).

  3. Joanna Slater April 17, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    I just watched the last 20 mins of this program as I did not know it was televised. It saddens me so much, as these lovely people (as in my own mother) had a life when in younger years. They were not born old, they had a life! Love, marriage, children etc. What do we do for the best when age and health fail them? My mother always said NEVER, NEVER put me in a home when I am old, and I never did. We have pride, our minds in some stay young (as in Betty in the program), some are not so fortunate, and our bodies we are in become old, and tired. It’s so very sad, and unfortunately not all get the care and support from our own health system. I will be watching the 2nd report next week.

  4. Gemma Holmes April 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm #


    I just wanted to say that I thought the BBC portrayed the first episode really well! I am Gemma the student Social Worker in part one of the documentary. I felt that it was important to say, that not one part of the filming was ‘staged’ and we were all filmed over such a long period of time, you did actually forget the cameras. Betty is an amazing, inspirational lady and she taught me so much about how incredibly important independence is and the right to have choices. We did in fact look at sheltered housing, as one of the comments mentioned it as a possibility. Betty was a very determined lady… was about her choice & control whilst maintaining safety… hour long episode obviously doesn’t cover everything over the six months, but was enough for Betty to capture everyone’s heart….as well as mine! I have been qualified for almost a year now and I am grateful every day to work with such inspirational people!

    • mithran samuel
      mithran samuel April 23, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

      Hi Gemma
      Thanks so much for your comment – it’s really great to hear from you. Please feel free to drop in to our live chat tomorrow as it would be really good to get your thoughts on the programme.

    • Edna April 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

      Many older people are inspirational, but not just as vocal as Betty in bringing across their determination when interrogated by social services. My own mother very vocally refuses.medical intervention she does not want and no GP can pursuade her try they might- she is much older than Betty and holds a similar view of ‘the system’ taking away her right to autonomy over the way she lives in her own home.

      There were others with dementia / confusion related developments in their repeated journey from home to hospital who also clearly in spite of concerns for their safety did return home when it was what they wanted- only to die in an institution. This is utter cruelty.

      We older people have led often led risk taking lives and had hardships that you social work novices of modern times cannot imagine. Some will fear dying alone from an accident at home, which might or might not have been preventable. But many like myself are already looking for our own way our because we do not want help or care from the system or to be bullied by the social work system.

      A 89 year old woman reportedly went to Dignitas recently not because she was ill or dying but could not cope with the modern world with its ‘fast pace’ (and perhaps not very caring people). I have great sympathy with this and I expect those with determination and means will do the same with the lack of care of the ageing population by those working in and with the system..

      It is only TCSW who is pushing for a role for adult social work- no older people are asking for it and most do not want it, many refusing services and intervention.

      Social work has gone from being a generally low level helping role to intrusive and damaging interventions in lives, limiting people’s rights and freedoms- all for back covering to prevent media outcry rather than from genuine concern for the wishes of the old and vulnerable / needy.

      Changes to the legal capacity issues are very much needed and Lucy Series blog on these issues should be read..