ADASS: Older people must complain more

Peter Hay, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, speaking on the Today programme, emphasises the impact of cuts and the difficult decisions councils have to make:

"Poor care is never acceptable whatever the system. The report has been set up to look at the many complaints they received about poor care so inevitably at this interim stage I think it's balanced towards problems.

"The problems are twofold: when an organisation loses sight of the person they're caring for and it becomes about a task. Secondly, something I hope we'll be able to explore in the full report, is how to get older people in particular to be well informed and powerful consumers.

"They're very passive about complaining and that's far too difficult and at the wrong end. How do we get people to be assertive about the right care that they want, in the way that they want, and at the time it's being delivered. That will be really important to find out as we explore this through the field work stage.

"Society is schizophrenic about this issue; we've taken a billion pounds out of social care because councils were seen as inefficient bodies. Now what we've got the task of doing is balancing high priority needs with scarce resources, that has always been the job of councils.

"It's a really difficult balance between quality and resources. Sometimes we're trying to squeeze the old quart into a pint pot. When it gets to pressures like this its unacceptable and poor practise but we've got a difficult balance between resources and priorities and quality and that's something we've got to explore with government.

"The future forum on the NHS in its introduction by Professor Field itself says its time to rebalance between a focus on acute care for older people in hospital and the community home care that this report alludes to. We welcome that call by the future forum; I think this report too indicates the same kind of issues. How do we build up great support at home that people can rely on and where you can have piece of mind.

"There's a very different spend between different councils between the amount that they spend on care homes and they amount they spend to support people at home so its not just an issue to do with the global sum of resources its also a challenge facing councils in their own place too. Getting this right balance is important at all levels.

"We're very sighted on dignity, some councils like my own in Birmingham have gone very heavily on promoting dignity champions to try and get that core value. We’re very vigilant as councils up and down the country about quality and we're trying our best to keep an absolute eye on the basic standards and how they're done, and essentially we also need to work with old people and find new ways of hearing from them about their experiences.

"As the report says, at the moment a system that's reliant on complaints has the emphasis on the wrong part. I hope from the final report comes some new ways of empowering older people at a much earlier stage so that we get this piece of mind and this focus on quality care that we need."