Fears for elderly as claims of care home abuse rise

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COUNCILLORS have expressed concern about a large rise in the number of allegations involving the abuse of elderly people in private care homes in a Yorkshire borough.

The number of ‘abuse alerts’ reported at care homes across Calderdale in West Yorkshire has risen from 123 in 2010-11 to 313 this year, half of which involved claims of neglect or physical abuse.

The total number of allegations, including incidents in people’s own homes, reached 707 this year, up from 347 three years ago.

A report to a council watchdog puts some blame on poor standards in care homes.

The report by Calderdale Safeguarding Adults Board says that the largest increase in abuse alerts has been in the care home sector which has resulted in the Board identifying improvement in the quality of care as a key priority for the next 12 months.

Of 15 comparable councils, Calderdale has the highest percentage of abuse alerts in the care home sector. All but one of the homes are privately run.

In October last year the council became so concerned about independent care home standards that its safeguarding adults team took over all responsibility for monitoring abuse allegations in them.

The report says: “Over the last 12 months the team has worked in close proximity with the independent reviewing team and contracts performance and quality team as a means of introducing enhanced scrutiny. This has led to proactive safeguarding responses that incorporate lower level concerns and those which include actual and high likelihood of harm if the issues were not highlighted a safeguarding concern.”

The report also notes that an increasing percentage of abuse allegations are being substantiated, or partly substantiated.

In 2010-11, 49 per cent of abuse alerts were either substantiated or partly substantiated. This year the figure rose to 67 per cent.

Neglect, physical abuse and financial abuse are the three main categories being reported in Calderdale.

In 2012-13, there were 227 neglect claims, 161 relating to physical abuse, 97 of financial abuse, 76 of multiple abuse, 47 emotional, 46 institutional and 29 of sexual abuse.

The investigations led to a variety of outcomes, including three criminal prosecutions or cautions, 16 incidences of disciplinary action, five more involving the police, 18 involving action by the Care Quality Commission, 41 instances of counselling or training, and 74 which resulted in continued monitoring.

The report will be discussed next Tuesday by the adults health and social care scrutiny panel.

The panel’s deputy chairman, councillor Ruth Goldthorpe, said the report raised serious questions about standards of care.

“It is a cause for concern about what support we give to care home managers. Is this about the training of staff, the quality of staff, minimum wage, working conditions and the high turnover of staff?

“Is there no continuity of care because of the high turnover of staff?

“There will be a lot of questions to ask. We want to know why is it happening and what actions are being taken. We will be asking the Safeguarding Board a lot of questions.”

Nobody was available to comment from the National Care Association, which represents care home providers.

The council’s head of safeguarding, Iain Baines, said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to safeguarding issues. We have worked with staff in care homes, the council and other agencies to make sure they report any safeguarding concerns to the council’s Gateway to Care team immediately.

“We look into concerns promptly and thoroughly and respond appropriately. This, together with continuous review and updating of our processes, ensures that issues which could potentially result in abuse and neglect are identified at an early stage and can be addressed before people experience harm. We also work closely with care homes, the Care Quality Commission and other agencies to monitor standards in care homes.”