Patrick Butler Social policy editor
18 October 2013
Jeremy Hunt will today tell British families they should follow the example of people in Asia, by taking in elderly relatives once they can no longer live alone.
The health secretary, whose wife is Chinese, is due to say in a speech on Friday that he is struck by the "reverence and respect" for older people in Asian cultures, where it is expected that older grandparents will go to live with their children and grandchildren rather than enter a care home.
He will say: "In those countries, when living alone is no longer possible, residential care is a last rather than a first option. And the social contract is stronger because as children see how their own grandparents are looked after, they develop higher expectations of how they too will be treated when they get old.
"If we are to tackle the challenge of an ageing society, we must learn from this – and restore and reinvigorate the social contract between generations. And uncomfortable though it is to say it, it will only start with changes in the way we personally treat our own parents and grandparents."
In his address to the National Children's and Adults Services conference, the health secretary will say society has collectively ignored what he calls the "national shame" of the "forgotten million" older people isolated at home or in care with no one to talk to, and he will urge people to visit and offer companionship to lonely older people.
"According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely. Some five million people say television is their main form of company – that's 10% of the population. We know there is a broader problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society."
Hunt will defend his plans to set up a rigorous, Ofsted-style inspection regime aimed at rooting out abuse and poor quality care in residential homes. Under the new chief inspector of social care Andrea Sutcliffe – who he refers to as "the nation's whistleblower-in-chief" – 25,000 care homes will be inspected by March 2016 and given online "easy to understand" ratings. Homes will be expected to pass a "good-enough-for-my-mum" test and inspections will rely heavily on the care experiences of residents.
The Care Quality Commission is to take on 600 volunteers with first-hand experience of the care system to help carry out the checks. The commission is also considering using hidden cameras and "mystery shoppers" to monitor quality standards. Failing care homes will be fined or closed down.
Hunt will say: "Simple, resident-focused inspections which look at the things that really matter, rather than simply the boxes that have been ticked [will help us achieve] an Ofsted-style rating that tells us in plain language if a service is outstanding, good, requiring improvement or inadequate."
It is important not to settle for "good enough care", Hunt will say. Society has to rise to the challenge of making Britain "the best place in the world to grow old in".
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