Poor treatment of many elderly people in their own homes is breaching their human rights, says a study of England’s home care services.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission report into council-operated home care said there is evidence of a “systematic failure” in the way care is given.
Home care services are used by more than 450,000 older people, around 20 percent of everyone in that age range, but only around half of a sample of people questioned for the study were satisfied with the services they received.
Researchers identified many cases of treatment that they felt breached human rights, including cases of physical and financial abuse.
Key findings included carers neglecting tasks because of time constraints, carers refusing to warm and serve food because of “unfounded” health and safety concerns, money being stolen over a period of time, chronic disregard for older people’s privacy and a disregard for clients’ dignity when carrying out intimate tasks.
Evidence given to the commission included a woman being left stuck on the toilet in her bathroom, as the care worker said she was too busy completing the list of care tasks to help her.
“The cumulative impact on older people can be profoundly depressing and stressful: tears, frustration, expressions of a desire to die and feelings of being stripped of self-worth and dignity – much of which was avoidable,” the report said.
It also recommended greater legal protection for older people after discovering the Human Rights Act does not cover all home care situations.
Alarmingly, one in three local authorities has already cut back on home care spending and a further one in five plans to do so within the next year, the study found.
Equality and human rights commissioner Baroness Sally Greengross said councils were reducing carers’ hours, causing them to cut corners.
“The emphasis is on saving pennies rather than providing a service which will meet the very real needs of our grandparents, our parents, and eventually all of us,” she said.
National Pensioners Convention general secretary Dot Gibson said the report’s findings were shocking.
“The social care system is in urgent need of reform from improving the pay, training and qualifications of staff to better regulation and monitoring of care providers,” she said.
“Older people need greater legal protection from abuse and neglect otherwise the horror stories in this latest report will simply continue.”
Age UK director Michelle Mitchell said home care must be focused on caring for and listening to individuals “rather than focusing on a tick box of tasks to be completed within a 15-minute time frame”.
“This report shows lack of training, skills and knowledge in a low-status workforce are contributing to abuse and neglect.”
Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “The EHRC’s report exposes the good, bad and ugly sides of care in people’s own homes.
“This government won’t tolerate poor care. I am determined to root out ageism and bad practice to drive up quality and dignity in care.”
The commission’s drew its findings and recommendations from a evidence gathered from 1,254 individuals, local authorities, care providers and other organisations across England.