When we talk about elder abuse, most people assume that the majority of such cases occur in residential care homes. The truth is that older people living in their own homes experience abuse too, including at the hands of unregulated carers.
We are living longer. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to live at home. Many older people need support with day-to-day tasks from dressing and washing to cooking and cleaning.
Many people in the community who need homecare services are paying for them themselves. Homecare support doesn’t come cheap. An increasing number of people, by virtue of what they can afford or are prepared to pay, are encouraging a massive growth in the informal, unregulated market of care.
Neighbours, cleaners, family friends or those who respond to an advert in a local newspaper are all being employed by older people and their families.
According to figures from Age UK, more than 50 older people every hour are neglected or abused in their own homes. We, the Jewish community, are not exempt from experiencing this abuse.
As a society, we worry about the vulnerability of those people living in our care homes. However, care homes are all regulated. Arguably, it is harder to abuse in a care home than it is behind the closed doors of a private home.
Regulation of care services is there for a reason. It is there to protect vulnerable people. Granted, nothing can provide 100 percent protection but it should dramatically reduce the likelihood of abuse and increase the quality of care services.
The staff working for regulated care home providers are vetted, qualified, receive regular training and support and are monitored. Regulation ensures that should there be a problem it is more likely to be picked up at an early stage and acted upon swiftly. All this does cost. It could add £5 an hour to the cost of home care.
The neighbour, family friend or person who responded to the advert in your local newspaper may charge you £10 an hour, but is the hourly saving really worth it?
While the risk of abuse is my main concern when it comes to the unregulated home care market, I am also concerned as a care professional about its impact on regulated homecare providers.
As the informal, unregulated homecare market grows, the losers will be those who want to receive regulated homecare services. We have already seen the impact on our ability to grow and balance the books for Jewish Care’s own homecare service. We have calls from people in the community requesting we develop our current day time homecare offering to a 24/7 service. We want to respond to these calls.
However, we are aware when people look at the cost of this option and compare it to the unregulated options, they often take the cheaper approach. We can only respond if the scale of demand is there.
We are currently faced with a chicken and egg situation.
Economies of scale are crucial when it comes to be able to provide quality, regulated, affordable homecare for the entire community.
Without significant demand and support from the community, the risk is we won’t be able to provide the offering many in our community are calling for.