Governments have failed to get to grips with social care

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From: Jean M. Robinson,Pasture Road, Embsay, Skipton.

TOM Richmond wrote (The Yorkshire Post, May 10) an incisive piece regarding failures in care and the response (May 23) by Health Minister Norman Lamb is disingenuous.

The fact remains that successive governments have completely failed to deal with this issue, both from the perspective of adult social care generally and abuse of the elderly in particular.

The law relating to social care is a mess. This can be no better explained than the fact that, as the Law Commission pointed out in 2008, the National Assistance Act 1948 “remains the bedrock of adult social care law”.

From that Act, nearly 70 years old, has stemmed many more, latched on to it in a vain attempt to deal with changing issues and philosophies.

The law is piecemeal and inadequate.

The Children Act 1989 consolidated the archaic and out-of-date legislation in respect of children because, of course, of their vulnerability. But, as we all know, the elderly can also be extremely vulnerable.

Children’s welfare is noted in the Act, quite rightly, as being of “paramount consideration” and anyone carrying on a children’s home must “safeguard and promote the child’s welfare”.

There is no comparable legal provision for an adult care home, just as there is no authority to remove a vulnerable adult from an inadequate care home.

In the USA, all of the states have enacted legislation to protect elderly people. For example, in Pennsylvania, the Older Adults Protective Services Act of 1988 looks at the rights of incapacitated older adults “whilst protecting them from abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment”.

In this country, we don’t even get off first base as we haven’t even got a definition of what “elderly” means.

If the Secretary of State sincerely believes that “there should be no doubt that this Government is committed to eradicating abuse” then instead of tinkering with “new fundamental standards”, he should announce new, consolidating legislation to match the Children Act 1989.

It is a disgrace and a scandal that in the 21st century, some care homes are little more than workhouse-wards-with-wallpaper and any decent government should be committed to ensuring that no vulnerable adult should go through what those poor, abused people had to endure in the inappropriately-named “care” homes.