Hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people suffer abuse and neglect in England’s broken care system every day, it was revealed last night.
Town halls last year received 109,000 reports that pensioners or disabled adults had been subjected to harmful treatment – in many cases by staff who were meant to be caring for them.
This 2012/13 total, which equates to almost 300 reports every day, is a rise of 13 per cent in just two years, according to a report by MPs.
The influential Commons public accounts committee said the increase may be the result of ‘overstretched resources and pressure within the system’.
The abuse and neglect is often perpetrated by ill-trained and poorly paid home helps, or staff in care homes. Almost half of the reports were proved following an investigation. The MPs said council budget cuts have meant increasing numbers of care workers are being paid less than the minimum wage, and that many do not receive even basic training.
They claimed the brutal cost- cutting has led to worse levels of service, with many elderly people not receiving the help they need to eat meals, wash or take medication. In addition, more councils are commissioning care visits lasting just 15 minutes – nowhere near enough time to deal with all but the most basic needs.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chairman of the public accounts committee, said: ‘We are facing a great adult social care squeeze, with need for care growing while public funding is falling. There has been an 8 per cent real terms cut in spending on adult social care between 2010/11 and 2012/13, despite the growth in the number of elderly and disabled people.
‘We are particularly concerned that local authorities have cut costs, partly by paying lower fees to providers of care, which has led to very low pay for care workers, low skill levels within the workforce, and inevitably poorer levels of service for users.’
Many of the reported cases of abuse relate to home helps and care home staff, but relatives can also be to blame.
In one shocking case in 2012, a secret camera placed in 79-year-old Gladys Wright’s room revealed an appalling catalogue of abuse by workers at the £800-a-week Granary Care Home in Wraxall, Somerset.
It showed her being pushed, shoved and sworn at, while one care worker even stole her food. Care home employee Daniel Baynes, 24, of Bath, was jailed for four months after admitting three counts of ill-treatment or neglect, and another of theft. Two other care workers were also convicted of abuse and handed community orders.
The committee’s report said: ‘Safeguarding referrals recorded by local authorities have risen 13 per cent in the two years since 2011.
‘Far too many referrals – 43 per cent – have been substantiated.’
Up to 220,000 people working in the care system earn less than the minimum wage, the report said.
In many cases, care workers are only paid for the time they are with a client and not for travel time between appointments. A third of workers are on controversial zero-hours contracts.
Last night a spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘The Care Act will make the social care system fairer. We know we need a skilled, valued and fairly paid workforce and are working with councils to clamp down on rushed visits.’
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