Author Archive

December 19, 2012

Does God Need A Make-Over?

There has been much in the media of recent about the rather fraught view of religion by other parts of society. On this occasion, I’m thinking in particular of the Church of England’s (and to be fair, most other Christian denominations) response to gay marriage and of course the well-publicised vote on whether women should be allowed to become Bishops in the Church of England.

I find it an interesting discussion for a number of reasons not least because I am a Christian and an Independent Social Worker so find myself asking whether the two can co-exist without being at loggerheads for much of the time.  On the one hand, they appear to be best friends; after all principles such as compassion, self-less giving, openness and honesty and shared between the two.  Prior to being a welfare state wasn’t welfare provided by family and caring neighbours? On the other hand they appear to be poles apart and the (media’s interpretation of) views of Christians have become the very definition of inequality and discrimination: Being reported as an outdated, irrelevant religion whose demise is imminent.

All this has led to the media and bloggers alike asking whether God has become irrelevant or in Katy Campbell’s blog questioning whether God requires a bit of PR to continue in contemporary society.

I think a part of the problem is that people are confusing religion with the Christian’s view of God.  For a Christian, God created everything in the beginning, has always and will always co-exists as Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit.  Whilst Christians identify that individuals can have a relationship with God who is perfect, religion is largely man-made and often where the problems exist. The problems don’t necessarily lie in the fact that people believe in God or any other god for that matter.

Does God need a make-over? If you ask a Christian they would say that to suggest that he does would be to acknowledge that he isn’t actually God so in itself is an absurd question.  Does the Christian church need a make-over to bring it in line with contemporary society and more in line with Biblical principles?

Another issue is the Bible which is of course the Christians’ book of choice. A Christian will tell you that it is one of the means through which someone gets to know God. It has itself been under scrutiny of recent particularly when discussions about gay marriage have been raised.  The reason being that the Bible sets out a clear framework for marriage; Christians believe that it is an institution ordained by God and a union between a man and women. That is why most Christians will be against gay marriage. Not because they are homophobic but because it is contrary to the foundation of their faith.

So, perhaps the issue isn’t that God requires a make-over or that the foundations of the Christian faith should somehow be remodeled because to suggest such a thing is surely questioning whether any religion is valid.

November 10, 2012

… And they’re off! But it’s a disappointing start for the Mental Capacity Act

In the line-up for the 2007 legislation Grand National we see the return of some old favourites.  Waiting for the starters’ orders are the Mental Health Act alongside the NHS & Community Care Act. We also see the return of the Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act and … surely not … Yes it is, the National Assistance Act is back for another plod around the course, surely he should have retired by now.  We also welcome along one of the favourites this year, in his first year of entry, the Mental Capacity Act is confidently waiting for what must surely be a resounding victory for all those he represents.   They’re under starters’ orders, and they’re off …

… but it’s a rather lack-lustre performance from the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA).  I’m probably not the only one slightly disappointed by the sluggish start; 5 years into the MCA I have to admit that things probably haven’t gone as some of us may have imagined.  I was prompted to write this blog having recalled a recent occasion concerning a gentleman with a learning disability. He asked his carers for support to obtain an application form for a driver’s license and then to complete the form. Instantly, the carers decided that it would be far too dangerous for the gentleman to be driving around and, quoting the MCA, in his ‘best interest’ decided that it would be better if they didn’t support the gentleman to obtain and complete a driver’s license application form. I think the only correct consideration of the MCA were the two words, ‘best interest’ and even they were out of context! On every level, they failed to apply the MCA correctly or even remotely well. If  they had, they would have approached the decision from the assumption that the gentleman had capacity (which, interestingly he did) and provided the support he was requesting in the first place.

This of course isn’t an isolated incident and only recently was also reported about on the Community Care website.  Poor application of the MCA is widespread, it crosses all levels of care professions and it has to be addressed for the sake of those it should be protecting. If I were the MCA, I would be suffering from a complex right about now. Being misrepresented, misquoted, ignored, it’s enough to make even the strongest legislation question themselves!

Some organisations see the importance of MCA training, but where I often see a glaring hole is in people’s ability to apply the principles and use the MCA as the framework it was intended to be. People can usually quote phrases, provide general themes or even list the 5 principles of the MCA but that is often where knowledge and application stop. Carers and professionals alike should be discussing it daily, in team meetings, formally in supervision and informally. They should be applying it to all decisions being made and actions being undertaken on behalf of someone who may lack capacity. They should be questioning everything and inquisitively discussing whether any action or decision being made is the least restrictive or whether a seemingly unimportant decision made by carers or professionals has just had a significant impact upon individual.

The MCA doesn’t have to be a complex piece of legislation unattainable to anyone who doesn’t have a law degree.  It even comes with a very user-friendly Code of Practice to which of course, anyone working with an individual who may lack capacity must have regard for.  But it does have to be a piece of legislation that is used well and frequently by all concerned to ensure that we really do act in peoples’ best interest.

October 30, 2012

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Over the course of the past months, who could help but feel a plethora of emotion as the horrors of Winterbourne View have unfolded before our very eyes: Absolute disgust that an organisation could get to the point where such blatant institutional abuse becomes a part of daily life, anger at the systems in which we work as they are revealed as insufficient to protect the most vulnerable in our society or perhaps a heart-wrenching empathy towards the vulnerable and a passion that things have to change and something done… but what?

It will hopefully have challenged us all as a professionals.  Is it just possible that as we go about our business there is a very real danger of becoming complecent unless we keep on out toes and remain true to our professional standards and ethical practices?  I’ve been reminded how very important the role of those who commission services and the need for greater accountability when choosing services for individuals who can’t choose for themselves.   Are we pressured into choosing the cheaper option even when we know in our heart that it isn’t the most suitable?  Do we sigh a sigh of relief and accept without question when we find a service that will accommodate the individual with particularly challenging behaviour knowing that the option will be limited? Do unrealistic case-load sizes prevent us from spending time to think outside of the box and identify the very best service and then think how it might be achieved? Do we have a professional relationship with providers when a less formal relationship can be so much easier? If we become too familiar those so important boundaries can become distorted and increase the risk of poor practice or even abuse going unnoticed or being excused.

I started my social care career working in a residential home for children with autism and it must be said that in my experience the majority of carers are decent caring people who go the extra mile.  Most don’t get paid heaps, have to work shifts but still turn up at work asking how they can make the next 8 hours the best they possibly can for those they have come to work for.  However, there are some for whom that isn’t the case and over the past couple of weeks we have seen 11 photos that will probably remain imprinted on our minds long after the media frenzy has died down.

I’d really like to hear how recent events have perhaps challenged you as a health or social care worker as you strive to help deliver the very best services to those who need them. I also look forwards to hearing how the Department of Health is going to drive service commissioning, delivery and safeguarding forwards.  What is agreed upon is that there needs to be a radical overhaul of social care; what doesn’t see so clear is what that will look like.

 

October 24, 2012

A Culture of Care?

I can’t help it but I’m somewhat unimpressed and uninspired by claims that Castlebeck’s transformation is nearly complete (As reported by The Guardian).  I’m sure Mr Sullivan has done a sterling job in dragging the remains of homes such as Winterbourne View towards acceptable standards but the very fact that such poor standards of care are evident in contemporary care is a shameful indictment on our society.

It riles me not only that such abuse took place in the first instance, but that it wasn’t picked up by the care provider.  Would the abuse still be happening if it were down to Castlebeck to identify it and take action?  I shudder to think that the answer might be a resounding “Yes”.  Also to think what else may be happening within care homes across the UK where vulnerable adults don’t have the benefit of family involvement or carers with the insight to blow the whistle on abuse … or Panorama!

 Having worked with numerous residential and nursing homes, it is not hard to see how totally dependant some vulnerable members of our society are on those paid to provide good quality care:  Care that is monitored and regulated and where safeguarding policies are in place to ensure that those who can’t speak up for themselves are protected from abuse… Really?

I can’t help but recalling one particular home, the manager was sitting in a very well equipped, spacious office when I arrived congratulating herself at the marvel that were her new, glossy brochures. Showing prospective families just exactly how decent the home was with its ample garden blooming with flowers and general good cheer.  Carers smiled on the front cover in a manner that exuded quality, person-centred care from more carers than one could possibly need whilst care-free residents tucked into their gormet meals.

Sadly, the reality was very different:  Insufficiently trained carers that didn’t have the time to answer a call-bell that had been rung for the umpteenth time as the room’s occupant continued to lie in urine soaked sheets.  Then there was the missed opportunity after missed opportunity to spot pressure wounds that were silently getting progressively worse – out of sight, out of mind.  All the time, the owner continued to congratulate herself and confidently sell the homes’ services to prospective new residents and their families.  Oblivious to the reality that was unravelling the other side of her plush office door.

Of course, such business’ need to be well run but when business comes before quality of care something needs to change.  Whole cultures need to change because if the underlying ethos of a home’s manager is developing a thriving business, how can the ethos of carers within that home be anything different … such as caring perhaps.  Whilst I’m all for serious case reviews and learning from past mistakes, I’m not convinced my ministers’ exclamations that, “We must learn from this so that these things must never happen again!”   I fear that they will happen again … and again until the whole culture of care changes to one of … well, care.

I can recall perhaps just a handful of small care homes where the managers rota themselves on shift so they know what’s going on and can identify any training needs.  Where more money is spent on care than on prtraying a good image to prospective new residents.  They may not be glistening with a new coat of paint every 6 months or benefit from TV advertising but they are run with an underlying ethos of care and respect and reflect far more the brochures that are displayed elsewhere, but they don’t have their own glossy brochures.  All they have is a good reputation which gets them by more than adequately.

October 16, 2012

‘Reclaiming’ Care Home Fees

A deathly silence has descended upon us!  Call me sceptical but I couldn’t help noticing that it started around the 30th September 2012.  Claims companies that were once assisting the good people of this fair land to ‘claim back’ (almost as if they were referring to a benefit that had not been claimed by the masses) care home fees that they had incurred for themselves or a family member fell silent.

So why has it all gone quiet?

Until recently, individuals and family members have been able to make retrospective claims (backdate their claim) if it was identified that they or a family member were paying for all or some of their care when in fact they should have been receiving full funding to pay for it.   There then was a decision to place a deadline on retrospective claims which is why there has recently been an influx of ‘helpful’ organisations desperate to assist you.  In return for their kind assistance they would take a percentage of your successful claim.  However, one of the deadlines for making retrospective claims that could date back several years has now passed and there remains a less modest time-frame within which claims can be back-dated.

For cases during the period 1st April 2011 – 31st March 2012 the deadline for individuals or their families and representatives to notify the relevant Primary Care Trust will be 31st March 2013.

The truth of the matter is, not everyone who has paid care home fees is entitled to claim a refund.  They were of course referring to Continuing Healthcare funding which is the NHS funding stream that enables some people to have their care home fees refunded or not pay them in the first place if that person meets the eligibility criteria for Continuing Healthcare funding.  Throughout this article I am using the example of a care home but the same information applies to all care such as nursing homes, live-in carers and care agencies visiting someone in their own home.

Why do some have to pay for care home fees and others not?

Care homes charge a weekly fee to cover the cost of such expenses as accommodation and care.  This can range from a few hundred pounds to several thousands of pounds depending upon the care provider and the necessary skills required by the home and carers.  Anyone who is in need of such care is entitled to a community care assessment from the local adult social service department.  If, following this assessment the individual is eligible for help from social services they will then receive a financial assessment.  This has been common practice for a number of years and beyond the scope of this article to discuss in any depth. If an individual has assets (such as savings or a property not being lived in) just over £23000 then they will be required to pay 100% of their care (in this case the care home fees).  If they have less than this amount, they pay variable contributions towards the care home fees and the local authority pay the remainder.  Local authorities usually have funding thresholds which are a maximum they will pay for a care home so won’t automatically pay thousands of pounds each week if the same care is available within their funding limits.

Can I avoid paying care home fees?

This is where Continuing Healthcare funding comes into the equation: Continuing Healthcare or CHC as it is usually referred to is the NHS funding stream used to pay for care fees is someone’s needs are predominantly health related.  Because it is the NHS, unlike social service funding (see section above) CHC funding isn’t means tested and you don’t pay a contribution towards your care home fees.  In practical terms, receiving CHC funding rather than social services funding could be the difference between having to sell your home to pay for care home fees and keeping it!  It is worth reiterating though that not everyone in a care home is entitled for CHC funding.

How do I see if I’m eligible for CHC funding?

The CHC assessment process is detailed within 2 documents; they are national documents so it shouldn’t matter where in the country you live.  I say that with slight apprehension because in reality any assessment that involves human intervention is not always 100% objective all of the time.  If you would like more information, the documents are:

Eligibility for CHC funding starts with the completion of a checklist.  This will be considered when an individual is discharged from hospital for instance or can be requested at any time.  Professional including G.P.’s, social workers, district nurses & occupational therapists might also complete a checklist.  Individuals or family members can also ask for a checklist to be completed.  The threshold for the checklist is set lower than the eligibility threshold to ensure that everyone who may be eligible for CHC funding is considered.

If the checklist has a positive outcome (high enough scores) the full consideration for CHC funding is undertaken in the form of a decision support tool (DST).  A DST isn’t an assessment itself but a tool to help professionals collect all the relevant information such as assessments in order to reach a conclusion as to whether someone is eligible for CHC funding.

How is a decision about CHC funding made?

If someone has a rapidly deteriorating health condition, a G.P. or health professional can ‘fast-track’ a CHC application and avoid an unnecessary assessment; the funding should be agreed by the local Primary Care Trust without question and immediately. Your local Primary Care Trust or PCT is the agency responsible for administering NHS services such as CHC funding at a local level.

If a DST has been completed, the professionals involved will look at the tool and make a decision based on the following characteristics:

Nature –   This describes the particular characteristics of an individual’s needs (which can include physical, mental health or psychological needs) and the type of those needs. It also describes the quality of care required to meet those needs.

Intensity – This relates both to the quality and severity of the need and the support required to meet them, including the need for ongoing care.

Complexity – This is concerned with how the needs present and interact to increase the skills required of the carers.

Unpredictability – This describes the degree to which needs fluctuate and thereby create challenges in managing them.

As you can see, the process isn’t an exact science and can’t be determined by a series of tick boxes.  The determining factor is whether the care required is predominantly health related than social care.  A local authority is not permitted to provide or pay for health care which is why health funding such as CHC exists.

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