Independent living: Home care or don’t care?

Posted on: 21 June 2011 by Diane Priestley

Council cost cutting exercise sees 40 elderly residents evicted to make way for low maintenance tenants.

home care for the elderlyThe Equality and Human Rights Commission interim report into elder care highlights a worrying trend of cost cutting that is leaving many older people lacking even basic home care. With the chancellor committed to further cuts, 50connect looks at the human cost of one council’s efforts to balance the books.

James Kiss was happily married for 60 years and helped care for his beloved wife at home until she died in 2004.

Before he retired, he worked hard as a transport manager and relished socialising at his local and summer holidays abroad with his family.

These day, at almost 89 with acute hearing loss, he prefers to keep to himself but enjoys going out on his rider to watch the kids play football on the field near his home. On other days he sit quietly in the garden reading his book and soaking up the rays.

However, his wish to enjoy peacefully his remaining years is about to being cruelly ignored by council accountants more interested in counting beans than the care of the region’s elderly.

Mr Kiss is one of around 40 people identified to be removed from their homes by Essex County Council under pressure from government funding cuts.

The elderly residents, aged from 60 to over 80, many of whom rely on the council-funded support staff to ensure basic needs are met, currently live happily in their council flats in Waltham Abbey.

However, in September the council will change the status of the flats from an Extra Care Home to Sheltered Housing and axe the support staff for the residents who will be forced to find alternative housing.

A new intake of less dependent residents will then be allocated the homes of James and the current tenants.

The building is owned by Epping Forest District Council and Assistant Head of Housing, Roger Wilson claimed he was trying to fight for the residents by offering to fund a warden to oversee the premises and setting up a Careline for their safety.

Mr Wilson blamed the ‘eviction’ on Essex County Council which has decided to withdraw all staff at the home due to costs.

Cheri Gallop, daughter of Mr Kiss (both pictured, left), is disgusted and angry with the council’s insensitive cost-saving plan.

She said the situation was “heart breaking” and causing deep concern to the families who have discovered the plans, which the Council has tried to keep secret. The elderly residents have not been informed as yet and Ms Gallop is worried it will cause them immense distress when they find out.

She said: “We have no idea where they will go. They are not ready for an old people’s home but not capable of living independently either. They are at the in-between stage. Most of these residents have family members caring for them as well as the team of three or four council carers.”

Ms Gallop said her dad had lived in his flat for two years and was settled and happy there, close by to her home.

She questioned whether the council was trying to force adult children to take in elderly parents and care for them full-time. She said most of the ‘children’ were in their 50s with jobs and commitments and it would be impossible to undertake caring for elderly parents in their own homes.  

Is this eviction the human face of government funding cuts? Essex County Council and Epping Forest district council have yet to comment on the case.

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Who is safeguarding care services for older people?

An interim Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report has highlighted shocking failings in the home care elderly people are receiving, and continued council cost-cutting drives are likely to further damage the quality older members of our community are entitled to. We know that cuts need to be made to balance the books but penalising such a vulnerable group that has paid its dues is poor indeed.

  1. 100% Yes, older people have contributed all their lives
  2. 0% No, harsh cuts are necessary and nobody should be exempt
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