By Gabriel Callaghan, Fourth Year Physics Student
In Britain, there is an attitude that it is incorrect to question the establishment, making excuses for the inexcusable. This has allowed cover-ups, scandals and waste to flourish. But what happens when this inaction has a severe effect on the lives of people with disabilities?
Failures in care for the elderly
Of course, nothing in this article is intended to criticise the vast majority of carers who are hard-working, yet are treated poorly by their companies. It is phenomenally difficult to care for some of the most vulnerable people in society with dementia and other conditions. The profiteering is astronomical in this business, with the care workers paid only £9.00 an hour for what is an emotionally demanding job. No one cares for the carers.
But frequently the elderly have worked hard their entire lives and have to sell their homes and pay their life savings for often substandard care homes. Recent research stated that the costs are on average between £27,000 and £39,000 a year. Looking at the accounts for a company owning several care homes, they received a gross profit of £83million, a £6million increase from the previous year. More than 20 of their homes are rated as ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission and one is rated as ‘inadequate’ with various breaches of regulations taking place and the inspectors stating that the ‘service was not safe’. But, the people in power will not tackle the issue robustly, or even recognise the gravity of it. All they do is say they have ‘learned lessons’ and ‘changed processes’ after people have suffered. The management claim they did not know what was happening in their organisations (gross negligence) or that they were complicit in the actions for not robustly stopping them (gross negligence again). It’s one or the other.
No one cares for the carers.
Now, we move onto some matters that are incredibly serious: abuse and neglect in the care system. Cases involve assaulting residents, failing to care for their needs, and in one case refusing food to a diabetic resident. Clearly, this conduct merits a very lengthy prison sentence. In a care home in Devon, adults with learning disabilities were ‘falsely imprisoned’ with no furniture or food. However, these abuses only came to light via some brave whistle-blowers.
Failures in the NHS
The NHS is a wonderful institution. However, it is being run into the ground by incompetent management. A&E is gridlocked with people having to wait for hours before being seen, and hospital food is poor whilst managers go out for ‘business lunches’. These incompetent managers have signed these “wonderful” PFI agreements, where a private company will build and even staff some areas of a new hospital and the government will repay this at a hugely inflated rate. One project at an NHS Trust would have originally cost £1.1 billion, but with repayments, this will cost the NHS £7.1 billion. Anyone could tell you that this seems a bad decision – but one of the finance directors was paid £47,000 a month. An article from The Daily Telegraph states that PFI hospital schemes cost £3700 every minute. That’s £1,944,720,000 a year. This could be used for experimental treatments, reducing wait times and improving the lives for people with disabilities. But now, they are saying there is no money. I wonder why…
The Mid-Staffordshire hospital scandal was one where whistle-blowers were intimidated and there were up to 1,200 excess deaths over 3 years. Staff had absolutely no compassion, even reminding patients of the cost of their medication. A brave relative started a campaign to expose these failings which involved criminal offences such as fraud, manslaughter and ABH. Senior management tried to cover it all up and no one has ever been prosecuted for these serious offences. All that happened was a £13 million inquiry. Surely, an appropriate conclusion would be for the criminal courts to imprison the offenders for life. No one can go on acting with impunity. Truly horrific things have happened to ill and vulnerable people, dehumanising them and removing their autonomy.
People are losing their dignity and independence through not being partners in their treatment
Quite frankly, I have had enough of this toxic system in which people are being denied the help they need. People are losing their dignity and independence through not being partners in their treatment. Why? Because of targets and people wanting to take the money and not upset their social life by doing the right thing.
Failures in the welfare system
It is expensive to live with a disability. A report published by Scope stated that disabled people face extra costs of £583 a month. And, in order to receive any help, people have to go through a degrading assessment. Complaints are up 6000% in 3 years regarding this process, which asks an applicant what they noted on their application form. It is my view that these are intimidation tactics to prevent people from claiming. This could be changed so that it is helpful for disabled people, more of an occupational health assessment, working out their needs. It is no fun for people who have nothing – they truly fear the system every day. Going into the workplace with quality and genuine support would be an ideal outcome.
Additionally, councils are cutting social care funding whilst senior managers are receiving pay rises generously paid for using your council tax – they are already on six-figure salaries. Vulnerable people who require stairlifts and mobility scooters are being denied them and they cannot afford the care they need. Special needs individuals are being refused adequate provision and denied assessments because of the costs. If the wastage and ‘gravy train’ were cut, of which there is a countless amount in pointless and futile bureaucracy, there would be plenty of money to support people with disabilities. Instead, their unscrupulous friends in the dishonest media write stigmatising and accusatory articles saying that all of us are benefit cheats.
Failures in the school system
Families with special needs children are being failed. Some are being denied statements of special needs, so they receive no support and end up getting excluded from mainstream schools due to league table considerations. Worryingly, a survey carried out by Mencap states that 81% of parents are not confident in their child’s school and 64% believe that their child has been withdrawn from activities through reason of disability, which is illegal.
A talk given by the Kings Fund stated that waiting times for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) can be 11 weeks. This is a school term, or a third of the school year.
Parents do not know where to turn for help. A talk given by the Kings Fund stated that waiting times for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) can be 11 weeks. This is a school term, or a third of the school year. Paying privately for help is something that is unaffordable for many, with the average price being £50 an hour. During this time, mental health conditions worsen, and academic performance is reduced. The prognosis of recovery is not as effective with waiting a long time.
And what about the failures where children are attending special needs schools hundreds of miles away from their homes? A recent Freedom of Information Act request stated that an autistic pupil was sent to a boarding school 100 miles away from home. Another child from Surrey was placed in Newcastle and there is a case where a pupil from London was sent to a Scottish school (a different education system). This is wrong. Another case involves an autistic boy who was kept away from school for two and a half years, which occurred in Sheffield. It is frightening that this kind of thing happens in Britain. Just think of the developmental impact that this would have on a 14-year-old being away from school for so long.
There is a complete lack of energy and enthusiasm in the system, something which I hope to change.
I hope that this has been somewhat eye-opening for you. The problem is far greater than the mainstream media shows, and drastic action is required to address the issues. It starts by rewarding the hard-working people doing demanding jobs supporting disabled people and sacking the people on the bureaucratic ‘gravy train’ deliberately frustrating progress, putting obstacles in the way and taking recourses away from those who need them so that they can have a plush office and an easy life. There is a complete lack of energy and enthusiasm in the system, something which I hope to change.