Acknowledge bad feelings and pay properly for the job you want done
Caring Times Letters, June 2014
Having watched yet another expose of care homes (Panorama, 30th May) and heard the renewed determination of all and sundry to put a stop to neglect and abuse wherever it occurs, I am saddened and frustrated by the continued failure of government and the social care establishment to feel and think, and accept responsibility.
The potential for neglect and abuse is inherent in care, whether at home in a family or in a care home. When it comes to the difficult job of caring – paid or unpaid – there are no pure, caring feelings. Everyone has good and bad feelings about caring. We are human and flawed. Most of us, most of the time, can manage to keep the bad feelings in check. But put us to work in an understaffed care home, on low wages, without training or respect, without good leadership, joining a gang of staff who have been institutionalised and working with a mass of residents who themselves have been deprived of love and respect, serving a company that aims to make a fat profit out of this situation, and those bad feelings will overwhelm all but saints.
We will see regional managers, and inspectors, and local authority contract monitors telling the company that this home is “compliant”; the dishonest claims to “person-centred” care from the company; the local authority placing people in this awful institution and knowingly paying less than good care costs. And then we have to watch the minister, the regulator, the local authority, and the employer wringing their cleanly washed hands over the situation they have created, ignored and now blamed on us.
The solution? First acknowledge that good care cannot be commanded, controlled and “delivered”. Know that caring evokes bad feelings as well as good in us all. Therefore run homes in a way that helps staff to understand and manage those bad feelings and don’t add further bad feelings by treating them like shit.
Give good, principled leadership – registered managers who will fight all comers on behalf of residents and staff. Pay properly for the job you want done; support and train. Create care that is locally based and accountable. Stop telling people what to do and how to do it, when you (government downwards) don’t know how to do it and seem to have forgotten what it feels like to care. That will be a good start.
–John Burton Independent social care consultant