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July 8, 2011

Quarter of a Million Vulnerable People 'Could See Quality of Life Suffer (UK)


Quarter of a million vulnerable people 'could see quality of life suffer'
Up to a quarter of a million elderly and disabled people will see their dignity and quality of life suffer after a legal decision paved the way for widespread cutbacks to home care, charities warned.

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that a council was within its rights to cut the overnight carer for a woman who needs help to move to the lavatory.
The judges backed the council’s view that Elaine McDonald, 67, a former prima ballerina, should wear incontinence pads at night instead, despite her not being incontinent.

But one of the judges, who was overruled by four fellow judges, warned that the ruling could be used by local authorities to make even greater cuts to care.
Supreme Court justice Lady Hale, the only woman on the panel, admitted she was “troubled” by the implications and said "the consequences do not bear thinking about."

"We are still a civilised society. I would have allowed this appeal," she said in a written analysis of the ruling that Miss McDonald’s human rights were not infringed by the council’s decision.

Charities immediately expressed concern, saying that elderly and disabled people will suffer both mentally and physically as councils stop employing as many carers.
There are around 557,000 adults in the country who receive some kind of care at home.
"Over half” of those people, or at least 278,500 vulnerable individuals, will be affected by yesterday’s decision if councils decided to implement it, according to Stephen Lowe, Age UK’s social care policy adviser.
He said vulnerable people would be: taken to meet friends less frequently, given less mental stimulation and even washed less often.
People who are currently helped out of and into bed might have to wait until mid-morning to get up and be forced into bed by early evening, as a reduced number of staff does its rounds, he added.
Even help with cleaning could be dropped as local authorities attempt to save money, he said.
Michelle Mitchell, a director of the charity, described the decision as “shameful”.
She said: “Older people have a fundamental right to dignity and forcing someone to sleep in their own urine and faeces could not be more undignified.
“This judgment opens the door to warehousing older people in their own homes without regard to their quality of life.
“Care should not be just about keeping people safe. It must enable them to live dignified and fulfilled lives.”
John Wadham, of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Local authorities will now have greater discretion in deciding how to meet a person's home care needs and will find it easier to justify withdrawing care.
“This means that older people's human rights to privacy, autonomy and dignity will often be put at serious risk.
“The court has missed a significant opportunity to interpret the law to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
Miss McDonald, from Leeds, is a former star of Scottish Ballet and received the OBE in 1983.
She now lives in Chelsea, west London, but was left with reduced mobility after a stroke in September 1999 and needs to use a wheelchair outside.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea used to provide her with an overnight carer, which cost them £22,000 a year, but they recently changed the criteria that such care would only be provided if she was likely to put herself in danger of falling.
The council decided instead that she should stay in bed and wear incontinence pads overnight or move into a care home.
However, she opposed the decision and took her case through the courts.
She said she had a horror of using the pads, which she considered an “intolerable affront to her dignity”.

A spokesman for the Stroke Association said: “We are very concerned about this judgment and call on councils to continue to provide vital services that help to preserve people's health, dignity and quality of life."
According to figures from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the average cut to care budgets this year was 6.2% or just under £1 billion, compared to overall cuts to council funding of 10%.



SOURCE:     The Telegraph.co.uk
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