They are Us and We are Them
When we heard about the 2 part BBC Panorama documentary looking at Crisis in Care, we knew as a technology provider for the care industry, we had to watch it.
Care Services at Full Stretch
The programme left us feeling somewhat deflated. The documentary focussed on numerous people in Somerset who were facing issues with the care they received from Somerset Council. Carers were being stretched beyond their limits as the levels of services were being cut year after year.
It was reported that Somerset Council had overspent on their budget and needed to find £13m in savings. This meant that libraries were closing, children’s services were being cut, the roads were being gritted less in winter and 120 jobs were being lost. Of the £13m that needs to be saved, £4m was to be cut from adult social care.
There is a funding conflict between the service users, the local councils and the NHS. Service users are forced into financing their own care until they have less than £23,250 in savings or assets (that includes the homes that they may own). Social workers fight on behalf of the service users to get the NHS to pay for care if their medical needs are sufficient, but this is under constant review, so it could all change in as little as 3 months. The pressure on everyone involved must be tremendous. The commitment of the staff working in the care organisations was clear but the system is clearly under strain and as the population ages, the amount of funding needed to care for them needs to be going up not down. Something is not working correctly if the number of care places has fallen by ½ million in the last 9 years.
It is difficult to see how Person Centred Care can be achieved in this environment. We find ourselves asking what kind of difference Care Management Software can make in a situation where the gap between the amount of funding and the cost of running the service is so large that even the largest care provider makes losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.
Whether people need care due to illness or old age, it shouldn’t matter who pays for the care. It is frightening to think of how much money is wasted in meetings alone, between social workers and the NHS as they try to decide who pays for an individual’s care. If care is needed it should be there. For an elderly couple to be forced into selling their assets to pay for care after a lifetime of paying taxes does not seem like the right thing to do. Neither should any vulnerable, elderly person be faced with the prospect of living in isolation due to the care she needs being scaled back.
The Panorama documentary made for difficult viewing and one can only hope that when it is screened in Parliament, enough MP’s will feel compelled to do something. One thing is clear to us as a technology provider. We can help and while we may not have the ability to solve all of the issues around how and who funds social care in the UK, we are in a position to change the way care is managed and if that can help free up more resources to provide better care in a more accountable and robust way, then we are doing our bit. We must never forget that at some point, any one of the people in the programme could be us or one of our loved ones. Their stories are our stories.