Archive for March, 2013

Prisoners ‘will care for older cellmates’ to tackle burden caused by growing number of elderly convicts

  • Prison population of over 60s more than double 2002
  • Experts say younger offenders could gain skills

Young prisoners could become carers for their cellmates in order to tackle the burden of elderly inmates.

The number of convicts aged over 60 has more than doubled since 2002, but few prisons have the staff to care for them.

Experts believe younger offenders could become carers, gaining valuable skills.

One prison already operates a ‘buddy scheme’ in which inmates clean and collect meals for older prisoners.

Eoin McLennan-Murray, president of the Prison Governors Association, said: ‘It is the most cost-efficient way of offering support.’

Ministry of Justice and Whitehall sources confirmed the option is being considered.

The number of prisoners over 60 has risen 142 per cent in ten years, reaching 3,333 in 2012, and prompting a Justice Select Committee inquiry.

MPs will investigate whether elderly prisoners’ treatment ‘complies with equality and human rights legislation’ and if a national strategy for their treatment should be established.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2301705/Prisoners-care-older-cellmates-tackle-burden-caused-growing-number-elderly-convicts.html#ixzz2P7uicCqT

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One grey, rainy London afternoon, my 11-year-old son arrived home from school with his shirt torn and hair matted. There was a sign sticky-taped to his back. It read: ‘Kick me, I’m a retard.’

I ripped it off in fury as a tidal wave of frustration and pity surged through me. ‘The other kids called me a moron,’ he whispered, his wide blue eyes filling with tears. ‘What does that mean? Am I a moron, Mum?’

Trying to protect a child with special needs from being bullied is like trying to stop ice melting in the desert. There were calls to the school, meetings, promises of closer scrutiny in the playground. But basically, when it comes to it defeating bullying — particularly when your child is an obvious target — is like leading the charge with a butter knife.

New research, published in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine this week, suggests more than half of teenagers with an autism spectrum disorder are bullied at school, compared with an estimated 11 per cent of children in the general population. It also reveals that the problem is largely ignored.

This certainly chimes with my experiences. My son Julius (Jules) was diagnosed with autism aged three. Autism is a life-long neurological disorder, chiefly characterised by an inability to communicate effectively, plus inappropriate or obsessive behaviour.

Not getting a joke, not knowing what to say, then saying the wrong things, being told off but not understanding why, doing your best but still getting it wrong, feeling confused, left out, frightened, out of synch, all day, every day, that is the reality of life for someone on the autistic spectrum.

What some people don’t know, however, is that the condition is also often linked to a very high IQ. My son walked and talked early. In fact, family and friends thought him ‘advanced’. So you can imagine my shock when, at about 14 months, Jules just lost his language skills. His brain was like a computer which had crashed.

When the paediatrician made his diagnosis, I felt a powerful, overwhelming ache of love. It was my job to stop Jules from tumbling through a hole in the world, like Alice.

My first reaction was denial. I virtually bankrupted myself ricocheting around the country seeing every available expert, all swishing in and out of doors in their white coats.

I tried everything, from karma maintenance to cranial massage. My son had so many expensive tests, I hate to think how many doctors’ children I’ve now put through university.

My next overpowering emotion was guilt. Although equally loving and supportive, fathers are better at compartmentalising. But a mother’s guilt gland throbs. Was it something I ate while pregnant? Was it the one glass of wine I drank in the final trimester? Was it something I should have eaten or drunk? Like feng- shuied organic beetroot perhaps?

After intense speech therapy, Jules started talking again when he was four. For years, experts had been telling me that he was having something they termed ‘global delay’ — a so-called pause in his development and communication skills.

Yet I always found him to be bubbling with the most intriguing questions: ‘If onions make you cry, are there vegetables that make you happy? Is a harp just a nude piano? What is the speed of dark? Is a vacuum cleaner a broom with a stomach?’ was a typical daily onslaught.

All the doctors with their stethoscopic minds couldn’t really diagnose my son. But by the age of five, the word ‘Asperger’s’ had begun to be bandied about.

‘Asperger’s is a form of autism, but at the high-functioning end of the spectrum,’ it was explained to me — at the cost of £245 an hour. ‘People with Asperger’s are often of above-average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech, but still have difficulties understanding and processing social situations.’

I burst with optimism. It felt like getting an airline upgrade or a prison reprieve, but my euphoria was short-lived. Every expert agreed on one point: only in a small classroom with specialist teaching, protected from bullying, could Jules ever reach his potential.

Doctors, nurses, teachers, therapists, social workers, and educational psychologists all agreed that this was the case, but getting the necessary help proved a postcode lottery. The waiting lists for help in my inner-city London borough were terribly long.

When he was five, I had my son ‘statemented’, which means he had a certificate of special needs from the education department, who promised to ‘fulfil his educational requirements’.

I soon learned to decode this spiel too: an educational ‘statement’ is really just an adroit piece of jargonised sophistry which promises much but delivers little. The system is designed with bureaucratic speed-bumps to slow down a parent’s progress.

I filled in forests of forms and saw squadrons of psychologists. The technical term for this process is ‘being passed from pillar to post’. I know families who have lost all their savings appealing in the courts against a council’s decision not to fund a child’s placement to a special school.

My son was eventually ‘mainstreamed’ in a local state infants school, with the support of a very kind, albeit untrained, helper for a few hours a day.

It was woefully inadequate. Putting a child with special needs into a mainstream school is as pointless as giving a fish a bath. Being told off for laziness or chastised for disruptive behaviour, put on detention for failing to understand homework and being constantly belittled by peers — the day-to-day life of a child with special needs in a normal school — means it becomes little more than a master class in low self-esteem.

Kathy’s new book, written with her son’s permission, explores autism from the mother’s point of view

Overworked teachers treated my son as though he was a feral creature recently netted in the Amazon and still adjusting to captivity. And pupils taunted and teased him.

Most children at school strive to master maths and grammar. Children with special needs strive to make themselves invisible to avoid notice. Although by the age of eight, Jules had an encyclopaedic knowledge of tennis, the Beatles, Buddy Holly and Shakespeare, including being able to quote most of Hamlet, the only subject at which he excelled in school was ‘phoning in sick’.

Bullying made school unbearable for him. Most mornings, I had to drag him, shrieking and punching, out of his pyjamas and into school. We always planned to leave the house by 7.15am — but, like clockwork, we were usually out the door by 8.35am.

My son hated school so much, he often just wouldn’t get out of the car. Would it be excusable to call the fire brigade to cut my son out of the car I wondered, slumped on the curb with my head in my hands, Jules welded to the seat within.

‘Only fish should be in schools. It’s a prison for children. How can you make me sit in that torture chamber all day?’ I can remember the mixture of bafflement and betrayal contorting his ten-year-old face into a mask of dismay as he struggled to rationalise our daily battles.

The one person he trusted was forcing him into a place where he was ridiculed for being different and beaten up so badly that on one occasion he needed stitches in his head. The incident was brushed under the carpet as ‘accidental’.

How I envied the normal worries of other mothers, who fretted over sugar content in cereal, how to make broccoli interesting and why their offspring wouldn’t eat anything which hadn’t danced in an advert on television.

The parent of a special needs child has to be their legal advocate, fighting his or her educational corner; a full-time scientist — challenging doctors and questioning medications; an executive officer — making difficult decisions on their behalf; and also, it emerged, their full-time bodyguard against bullies.

Secondary school didn’t improve things. My son called his school ‘Guantanamo Bay’. It would take me an hour to haul him out of bed, and only then with a mixture of cajoling, begging, pleading and blackmailing. By screaming till the paint peeled off the walls, I could usually half stuff him into his uniform, but not before he’d trashed his room in the process.

My ‘brilliant’ mothering skills became strikingly apparent when I would then run back to my room and sob into my pillow. Eventually, I would summon up the strength to drag him, as he cursed and cussed, to his school gates, before dashing to work, distraught and dishevelled and Panda-eyed from mascara leakage.

The daily ordeal left me more depleted than Our Lady of Put Upon and Exhausted — the patron saint of mothers of children with special needs.

But Jules’s anxiety was understandable. Venturing out of the house when you have special needs can feel as hazardous as Scott leaving his Antarctic base camp. It’s no wonder that the hardest thing for parents like me is to stop mollycoddling.

All through his teens, I didn’t once let my son leave home without a long list of instructions and enough supplies in his backpack to set up a comfortable wilderness homestead. I was so overprotective that my friends and family would often joke that they couldn’t believe I’d ever let my son out — out of my womb, that is. Even now, whenever my darling boy walks out the door, you’d think he was emigrating.

The fuss, the worry, the long hugs and heart-felt goodbyes. But how will you ever know if your child can cope in the outside world, if you never let him out into it?

When I read about the horrific fates that have befallen other young men with Asperger’s — the tragic death of Steven Simpson, who was sprayed with fake tan and set on fire at his 18th birthday; or the autistic boy known as ZH who, in 2008, was falsely imprisoned and shackled by the police for jumping into a swimming pool fully clothed — my paranoia seems justified.

After my son was mugged at knife point aged 14, I happened to read a newspaper article which contained this comment from a police officer: ‘People with special needs are routinely targeted. I’m afraid it’s the price of disability.’

If this is the price of being born ‘differently abled’, then the price is way too high. The only way to eradicate bullying is to encourage society to be more accepting. I no longer think of people as ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ but ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’.

And I adore my extraordinary son. Despite all the angst and exhaustion, he has brought such joy, humour, love and compassion into my life. And also wonder. Jules is Wikipedia with a pulse. People on the autistic spectrum have a lateral, literal logic which is vivid, hilarious, honest and original. My son is one of the most interesting people I have ever met.

Since he was a little boy, he has kept me on my mental toes by asking me the most tangential questions. The latest: ‘The American constitution says you must pursue happiness. But how do you know when you’ve caught it?’ And ‘Why is there no other word for synonym?’

With my son’s blessing — Jules is now 22 — I have written a novel called The Boy Who Fell To Earth to help destigmatise autism. The book is about a single mother’s rollercoaster ride of raising a child with Asperger’s.

It’s basically The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time — Mark Haddon’s famous book which told a tale through the voice of a teenage boy with Asperger’s — but from the mother’s point of view.

While based on my own experiences, the book is also a tribute to all the plucky, inspirational parents I’ve met who’ve shared with me their battles against bureaucracy and bullying. We now know, with diagnostic hindsight, that Mozart, Einstein, Van Gough, Warhol, even Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy, were on the autistic spectrum.

Julius tells me that my novel is a ‘celebration of idiosyncrasies, eccentricities and being different’.

And he’s right. Because how tedious it would be if we really were all the same — a case of the bland leading the bland.

Kathy Lette’s novel The Boy Who Fell To Earth is published in paperback by Black Swan on April 11 at £7.99. Kathy is an ambassador for the National Autistic society and Patron of UK Autism Charity of Anna Kennedy online. © Kathy Lette. 2013.


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Shock dementia findings are not a surprise, says charity

DEMENTIA care in North Somerset is not good enough, according to health inspectors.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) undertook a nationwide review last year and dementia patients in North Somerset were found to have a significantly increased chance of being admitted to hospital than non-sufferers.

Nationally, dementia pat- ients in 78 of the 151 local NHS areas were found to be more likely to be admitted to hospital from their care homes, than people without the condition.

A spokesman for disability charity Vitalise said it was a ‘terrible indictment’ of the UK’s care system.

Latest figures from the Alzheimer’s Society in February 2012 showed that North Somerset could have as many as 3,300 dementia sufferers, with up to half unaware they have the condition.

The region is in the bottom 15 per cent nationwide in terms of improving its diagnostic rate.

Rob Heal, whose father Brian suffered from the illness and used to live in the specialist Poppyfields care home, said he was ‘angry and upset’ politicians and councillors do not do more to help dementia patients.

Brian Heal died, aged 73, less than a year after moving from Poppyfields in Worle when it was closed by North Somerset Council for financial reasons in 2010, despite thousands of people signing a petition against the decision.

Rob said: “There he had one-on-one care and he always had the specialised care he needed.

“When he moved to another nursing home he had about eight carers. To him they were a load of strangers and he was frightened of them because they kept changing.”

Rob said nine of the 11 residents at Poppyfields died within a year of the home’s closure and he believes that shows how important specialist dementia care is.

The CQC report also said that in a third of dementia admissions, UK hospitals had no medical notes detailing the patient’s condition on arrival.

The Vitalise spokesman said they were shocked, but not surprised by the CQC’s findings.

He said: “One of our own studies showed that six out of 10 carers suffer huge feelings of worry and guilt at the prospect of sending their disabled, frail or elderly loved ones into residential care even for just a few days’ respite, and that the issue of quality of care is the cause of their fears.

“Sadly, carers’ fears are quite justified and it’s not surprising that many family carers would rather struggle on at home, risking their own health in the process, than entrust their loved one to residential or respite care.

“They simply have no confidence in the care system.”


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High quality of care

A Swindon care in the home company, which has been in business for less than 18 months, has received a glowing report from the watchdog that is charged with maintaining high standards in the industry.

Bluebird Care, which is based in the historic railway quarter of the town, was found to be achieving all the necessary standards in the areas checked by the Care Quality Commission, including the care and welfare of its customers.

Other areas checked included the standards of staffing and of management.

The unannounced inspection was carried out in February, when the Commission spoke to relatives of elderly people who are using Bluebird Care.

The report praised the company, saying: “The relatives told us that the carers were always polite and respectful.

“One relative said that they couldn’t wish for a better service and it was ‘absolutely brilliant’ and an ‘excellent service’.”

The report added: “People were supported to make decisions about their care and their day-to-day lives. They were also supported to be as independent as possible.”

Ben Curtis, managing director of Bluebird Care – which is also in contention for a Customer and Staff Care Award in the finals of the Wiltshire Business Awards – said he was delighted with the report from the Care Quality Commission.

“Although we are a relatively new business, we have always put our customers at the heart of all we do, and pride ourselves on providing them with a good, old-fashioned service,” he said.

“We welcome the rigorous standards set by the Care Quality Commission and the fact that we are able to meet, and exceed, them is down to the dedication and hard work of the team of care workers we have, who do such an excellent job.”

Bluebird Care Swindon is currently recruiting more staff in order to be able to expand its service.

For more information, people can contact Ben Curtis on 01793 698033 or email swindon@bluebirdcare.co.uk


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Despite the widespread nature of dementia, many sufferers still live in silence

The Alzheimer’s Society guide is intended to help prevent tens of thousands of sufferers being placed into care too early when they could be looked after at home.

The advice for sufferers and their families includes researching the disease thoroughly, talking to friends and relatives and finding out what local services and financial support are available.

Research shows that the vast majority of people with Alzheimer’s want to stay in the comfort of their home for as long as possible.

But in many cases their carers – nearly always spouses or family members – are simply overwhelmed.

Many people living with dementia have been forced to leave their safe havens, which is unacceptable Jeremy Hughes, chief executive

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: “Home means something special to all of us.

“Many people living with dementia have been forced to leave their safe havens, which is unacceptable.

“By seeking support early, people living with dementia may avoid reaching a crisis point unnecessarily which results in them moving into long-term care.”

Many families suffer in silence without realising there are scores of organisations that offer support and that they may be entitled to financial help even if they have savings or a regular income.

This lack of awareness means that one in 10 people living with dementia in Britain ­– nearly 60,000 people – is moved into care prematurely.

The society’s guide urges newly-diagnosed sufferers and their families to visit an occupational therapist and consider a home support package.

Its recommends that those living with the condition eat well, take their medicine and stay physically, mentally and socially active with regular activities and hobbies.

The experts also urge sufferers to stick to a routine and to plan ahead so they are happy with arrangements for their future.

Some 800,000 people in the UK have dementia – including more than half with Alzheimer’s – at a cost to the economy of £25billion a year.

The number of sufferers is expected to rise to a million by 2022.

Experts believe the condition, for which there is no cure, is caused by a build-up of toxic plaque inside the cells of the brain. Existing treatments attempt to slow the rate of mental decline but can have debilitating side-effects, including severe headaches, nausea and fatigue.

Last night the Alzheimer’s Society received a boost after it was revealed that retail giants Argos and Homebase would support the charity for the next two years.


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Skills for Care and Skills for Health have launched the Code of Conduct and National Minimum Training Standards for Healthcare Support Workers who report to nurses or midwives and Adult Social Care Workers in England.

The long awaited Code describes the standards of conduct, behaviour and attitudes that the public and the people who need healthcare, care and support services should expect of workers. The National Minimum Training Standards define the minimum knowledge workers must have, irrespective of individual job role. Both the Code and the Standards were created after extensive consultation with employers and workers across both sectors to make sure they were fit for purpose.

The two Sector Skills Councils were commissioned by the Department of Health following the Secretary of State’s speech to the NHS Employers conference on 15 November 2011, where he announced that the Government’s intention was to commission work to develop a Code of Conduct and minimum standards for education for support workers.

This Code of Conduct is based on the principles of protecting the public by promoting best practice. It will ensure that support workers covered by the code are working to defined standard’s, providing high quality, compassionate healthcare, care and support.

The new minimum training standards focus on 10 areas that are designed to cover the key knowledge for health and care workers and set out what should be covered during a period of induction in the first weeks of employment:

1. The roles of the Healthcare Support Worker and Adult Social Care Worker

2. Your personal development

3. Effective communication

4. Equality, diversity and inclusion

5. Duty of care

6. Safeguarding

7. Person-centred care and support

8. Health and safety

9. Handling information

10. Infection prevention and control

The Standards correspond to the underpinning knowledge within the Core Competences for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England.

Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, said: “The new Code of Conduct and National Minimum Training Standards will help to improve standards of care by ensuring all support workers have the right skills required for their role.

“People who use these services expect the staff looking after them to provide safe and compassionate care and this is yet another step towards the better standards everyone expects.”

Skills for Care CEO Sharon Allen said: “It is absolutely critical that people with care and support needs know that the workers providing this care and support are trained to a high standard in key areas. These standards define the minimum any worker should know. Equally people who may have loved ones needing care and support need to know that workers have the right level of knowledge in the right place at the right time to provide high quality, person centred care and support. The key strength of these new standards is that they were created after a huge consultation with employers and workers across our sector to make sure they can put them into practice in thousands of workplaces and communities.”

Skills for Health CEO John Rogers said: “We are delighted to be publishing the Code of Conduct and National Minimum Training Standards. The Code should give the public, and people who use health and social care services confidence that these support workers will provide safe and compassionate care of a high standard. Following the Mid Staffs inquiry it is vital that we do everything we can to rebuild public trust in the standards of healthcare provided.

“Using the National Minimum Training Standards will ensure that new healthcare support workers who report to nurses and midwives working in England will have the key knowledge and understanding required for their role from the start. What has also been very rewarding is the successful collaboration between stakeholders in health and social care sectors to develop standards that are applicable across both sectors. We would like to thank all those who contributed to the consultation process and especially those who worked with us on the project groups.”


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Social care ‘star ratings’ set to return after review gives backing

Aggregate ratings for social care services, delivered by the CQC, would fill public information gap on care quality and boost choice for users, finds review commissioned by government.

Aggregate ratings of adult social care services delivered by the Care Quality Commission are set to return after winning backing from a government-commissioned review.

The reintroduction of an overall rating for services, scrapped to sector dismay in 2010, would fill a “clear gap” in the provision of trusted information on the quality of individual care services, enhance choice for families and potentially increase performance, found the review by think-tank the Nuffield Trust.

The independent review, which also covered health, was commissioned by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who publicly supports the reintroduction of ratings, but wanted the costs, benefits and practicalities of doing so investigated. The review’s support, alongside that of Hunt and most of the social care sector, is likely to make the return of quality ratings irresitible.

Major information gap

“There is a major gap in the information available to the public on the quality of care of their local hospitals, GP practices, care homes and other providers; people are left in the dark,” said Nuffield Trust chief executive Dr Jennifer Dixon, who led the review. “One aggregate, comprehensive rating of providers may provide more clarity and simplicity for the public, especially if it came from one ‘official’ trusted source.”

 The review found that the reintroduction of ratings would be “most appropriate” in social care, as opposed to health. This was because the range of information available on social care services was more limited, particularly when compared with hospitals, making an overall rating easier to design. Decisions on social care were often made when people and their families were in crisis, making a simple guide to quality, such as that provided by a single rating, particularly useful.

Strong sector support

The review’s consultation process found a “clear overall consensus” in favour of the introduction of an aggregate rating for adult care services, as well as support for the previous quality ratings system, which ran from 2008-10.

Though its short lifespan meant no comprehensive evaluation of its impact could be made, a 2009 review by the outgoing Commission for Social Care Inspection found the ratings aided choice for users, were easy to understand and provided an indication of quality.

Rise of online care ratings sites

The review acknowledged the rise of online consumer ratings and information sites designed to help service users choose social care services. However, it found that use of the web by families to help choose services was low and that the proliferation of such sites may create confusion.

The review was also told that families of people in residential care were deterred from posting negative reviews of care services on these sites for fear of reprisals from providers.

Design of ratings

The review suggested that ratings for services should be updated regularly, possibly every month, to ensure they remained current. The trust also called for frontline staff and service users to be involved in designing the system to ensure it was credible, though it stressed that any system should make use of existing and emerging performance frameworks, such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s quality standards for social care.

The review concluded that the CQC was best placed to deliver any ratings system but warned that it would need more resources and significant support to do so, as it would have to move from assessing providers against essential standards to judging their performance more widely.


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