Amid all the recent concern about the shortage of funding for older people needing care, “Social care ” hit the headlines today from a rather unusual source. This is The Times front page headline for the 10 May :-
” Stop splitting up elderly couples “
It is a report of a speech given at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Annual Conference in Stafford. The speech was given by Sir James Munby, President of the family division of the High Court. The judge in full flight rebuked his audience for not keeping elderly couples together, when one has to move into residential care. Warming to his subject, and no doubt acutely aware of his approaching retirement, here are some of his choice words :-
- “Separating elderly couples against their wishes must stop”
- “Officials should give higher priority to happiness and spend less time complying with procedures and safety rules”
- “Separting couples……… was absolutely shocking and a profound indictment of our society”
Strong stuff from a top High Court Judge. It is a wonder he didn’t lock up half of his audience there and then ! He is right in much of what he had to say, but of course it has been going on for years. Residential Care has always separated older couples. No partner, if they didn’t need care themselves, would move into a care home. So it’s not at all surprising that couples are split up, but it’s certainly not a compassionate way of looking after couples who would prefer to stay together in the final years of their lives. Extra care housing was designed to deal with precisely this eventuality, but unfortunately there is far too little of it, so it is not an option for the majority of older people.
It is hard to blame Social Services, because they are driven by the financial constraints of Central Government, which has led them to cut back on domiciliary care, which does allow people to stay together in their own homes. Compassion has for long been replaced by expediency.
The Judge also had some choice insights into life in residential care :-
- ” Forcing older people to take part in group social activities, such as line-dancing and bingo nights could leave them miserable “
- ” you are actually putting someone in a regime which may not allow them to smoke, or a regime where for their own good they may be heavily persuaded to indulge in the kind of collective jollification which they would have loathed at home “
The Judge is motoring now, because these comments apply to all people who move into residential care, not just couples. He is creating an argument for older residential care residents bringing thousands of cases to court for “forceable line-dancing” or “compulsive bingo playing” or “wrongful collective jollification”.
Court should be fun when the cases come about and older people will have the support of all those legally-aided no-win-no-fee lawyers 😀. What a day out that will be, much more interesting than bingo or line-dancing.