A report has been published this morning concerning the quality of personal care for the elderly in England and Wales. It sets out findings that suggest that about 50% of those it quizzed are receiving a quality of care that is unacceptable. That, of course, is extremely unfortunate. However there are several features of this report which render its findings questionable at best and useless at worst.
The first is the author of the report is the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This is a statutory body that "promote[s] and monitor[s] human rights and.. protect[s] enforce[s] and promote[s] equality across the nine "protected" grounds- age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.". The leader of this body is Trevor Phillips OBE, who has had a controversial record. Indeed six members of the commission have left after a series of disputes with the now part time chairman of the commission. Others are said to be considering their position.
It is not a body that has specific skills that could allow it to undertake a specialist investigation of the realities of care for the elderly. Indeed it even undermines the quality of its own conclusions by suggesting that the problems that they identify could be much worse, because some might be "too frightened to complain". The alternative, that those who are complaining the loudest may be exaggerating the position is not considered. So the only valid conclusion of this extremely expensive report is that there may be problems in the provision of personal care services to the elderly, but that the scale of this problem is not quantified.
What bothers me the most is not that problems have been identified- I doubt that there is any aspect of the provision of public care- or private, for that matter- that could be above criticism. No, my beef is that the EHRC suggests that this problem is a human rights problem, and that the solution is- surprise surprise- to bring the provision of personal care under the control of human rights legislation. So a "human rights" quango wants to expand its remit, well pardon my cynicism, but "they would, wouldn't they?".
Personally I feel that this report like so much of the "human rights" industry of special pleading in the UK actually degrades the idea of the fundamental nature of human rights. The fundamental rights enshrined under the universal declaration of human rights have been ignored by the UK, but not in the way that the country provides care to its elderly citizens. The use of torture and violence by British forces in Iraq, for example, is well documented- and it is to our thorough discredit. To try to put the patterns of behaviour which the commission says it identifies in certain aspects of treatment of the elderly on the same level as torture is totally inappropriate.
There may be a problem with personal care with the elderly being inadequate. It would not be a good thing if this was so. The remedy is to improve management and reporting and probably funding in the areas where a need for such change is found. The remedy is not to submit to the special pleading of a self appointed human rights industry that can not tell the difference between real human rights abuse and the poor delivery of services.
Since the EHRC can not tell the difference, it is hard to understand why the UK government should continue to fund such a patently useless organisation.