In late October, ministers announced a £300 million pot of money to allow people to grow old in their own homes, receiving care and practical help, reducing the need for them to go into care homes and hospitals.
Local authorities can bid for a share of the money, to create extra houses and flats designed for disabled and older people who need extra support. This investment is timely, given the disturbing state of the care home system. In spring 2011, abuse at Winterbourne View was exposed by BBC Panorama, when an undercover reporter secretly filmed support workers slapping patients, pinning them underneath furniture and giving them cold showers as punishments. Two weeks ago, Panorama went on to reveal some of the patients rescued from Winterbourne View have since been injured or abused in their new homes. Of 51 patients transferred to new homes, 19 have been the subject of 'safeguarding alerts' over their wellbeing.
Health minister Norman Lamb has admitted the care home abuse constitutes 'a national scandal' that 'has to end'. He has pledged that the government's final response (to be published this month, following an urgent question tabled by shadow health minister Liz Kendall) will be 'robust and clear'.
Care home cultures must change and they must change fast. Ministers should scrutinise a report released last month by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This asserts care homes are being held back by a culture of 'negativity' and 'stigma' felt by both care workers and older people.
Its three-year study explored what makes good practice in care homes and makes key recommendations. It concludes that relationship-centred care is at the heart of many examples of best practice. Its core message is to consider the real people that make up care homes - both the patients and staff - and to ensure that homes do not remain 'islands of the old'.