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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Private care V public care

The Panorama programme showing horrific treatment of those in a private care home is not a shock to many who have worked in the sector. In the late 1980's and early 1990's I had several jobs working in residential settings, and post social work qualification, a spell working in and then running hostels for the voluntary sector.

From working with the elderly, mental health issues, learning difficulties, the homeless and those coming out of prison, I soon developed a view that the public sector was almost always the best way of providing services. Whilst there were some fantastic private/voluntary sector hostels, and some poor public sector care homes - clearly, on the whole, the private sector provided a second rate service.

Profit margins are always at the front of private sector projects, which means less staff, poorly paid and poorly trained. Where ever cuts can be made, whatever concerns about the level of care, managers implemented them with little resistance.

But it is the poor levels of monitoring that is the biggest problem, and it is this one that can allow the worst cases of abuse to happen.

Yes, the public sector was almost always the costliest way of offering provision, but this was for a reason. High levels of well trained staff and high levels of monitoring. Good care cost money.

Often the private sector not only cuts corners but also syphons off huge amounts of public sector funding for providing the services, money that ends up in the pockets of owners and company directors of these care homes.

I remember once walking out of a job in a private sector care home for people with learning difficulties. One of the patients had been flinging excrement at the other patients in the TV lounge. Though the incident had happened much earlier in the day, none of the staff had been bothered to deal with it, leaving it to the night staff to clean up. It was horrible and degrading for all those having to live in those conditions. I had witnessed some awful sights over the previous 3 weeks, but it was for me the final straw and I quit that night

Public sector care has been much derided since the Thatcher era, but I for one have witnessed enough to say; I'd rather our governments spent less on bombs and city centre water features, and more on decent public sector provision for the most vulnerable in society.

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