Abuse in care homes 'common', report finds

A new report has discovered that 52 per cent of British adults believe that abuse and neglect in care homes for the elderly is common.

The Independent Age charity is campaigning for new measures to understand the scale of the problem, with the majority of respondents claiming that personal experience has guided their belief.

The Care Quality Commission recently expressed concern that nearly 4,000 care homes in England are delivering substandard care or are struggling to improve, with nearly 40,000 safeguarding risks relating to care homes reported and investigated in England in 2015/2016.

Additionally, the report, Shining a light on care: Helping people make better care home choices, found that: 85 per cent of adults say that they have not visited a friend or relative living in a care home in the past year; and of those adults who have visited a care home in the past year, 45 per cent believe neglect and abuse to be common and a further 45 per cent of adults would describe the overall quality of care in care homes as bad.

Moreover, 22 per cent say that, if they wanted to find a care home for a relative or friend, they would not know where to go for information, including 19 per cent of over-65s. Lastly, 71 per cent of people who believe neglect and abuse to be common cite media coverage of the care sector as a reason for this belief.

The Independent Age report recommends that the Competition and Markets Authority conduct a full market review of the care home sector.

Simon Bottery, director of Policy & External Relations at Independent Age, said: “While the research finds that most people’s negative view about care homes is based on media coverage, it is worrying that so many say they are basing it on personal experience. We are calling for a survey of staff in care homes to better understand the scale of the problem. While we hope and expect that abuse and neglect is less widespread than believed, it is essential we know for sure.”

Professor Paul Burstow, former Care Minister, added: “For most of us, the thought of going into a care home is often something we only ever think of us as a last resort. But when the time comes to choose one, people need a straightforward view of what good quality care looks like, what they should avoid and what they should ask. After all, people choosing a care home rarely get second chances. Government, regulators and the care industry all have a role to play in making choosing a care home easier.”

Responding to the report, Ray James, immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care, said: "One person experiencing neglect is one too many and we all share a responsibility to ensure that care is dignified, respectful and safe. Every incident, every investigation and every report provides really important opportunities to learn, to better protect, to hold people to account and to strive to reduce the chance of further failings.

“That said, we must also recognise that many dedicated, hardworking front line care staff make a very real, personal and positive difference to the lives of over a million older and disabled people, every minute of every day. The fact that over 90 per cent of people are satisfied with their care is testament to the work of the many dedicated and hardworking care staff, despite the chronic underfunding of adult social care.

“We must continue to root out abuse and tackle its causes but if we are to continue to be able to recruit the dedicated, compassionate, caring workforce we need in years to come, society and the media must also find ways of acknowledging all that is good, whilst rightly exposing the unacceptable.”