On April 1, 2011, Jacquie Roberts, chief executive of the organisation entrusted to regulate elderly care services in Scotland, which until that time was known as the Care Commission, proclaimed that a new organisation would be unveiled and this organisation would deliver new standards in care regulation.
The organisation was to be known as Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS) and many, including Ms Roberts, who became interim chief executive of SCSWIS, proclaimed the new title as descriptive of a new dawn of care regulation.
Barely six months later SCSWIS, perhaps unsurprisingly, decided to don yet another new garb, this time under the title of Care Inspectorate, but Ms Roberts pursued a programme of reducing inspection frequencies within the services regulated by the Care Inspectorate and cut the number of care inspectors by offering a redundancy programme to 54 staff at a cost of £2.4 million. Fortunately, this programme has been reversed following intervention by the Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, and inspection frequencies of care services will be increased in the New Year.
Due to general public concern regarding the care of the elderly in the light of recent events, including the death of a resident in the Elsie Inglis Care Home in Edinburgh and the financial woes of Southern Cross affecting 90 care homes in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament announced an inquiry and published a report in November regarding the status of elderly care regulation in Scotland. As part of the evidence heard by the inquiry it was stated by Henry Simmons of Alzheimer Scotland that many elderly people in care and their families were "frequently fairly terrified to make a complaint" to the regulator due to fear of repercussions.
In giving evidence for the Care Inspectorate, Ms Roberts acknowledged she was aware of the problem raised by Alzheimer Scotland and replied that "the new everyday name for the organisation (Care Inspectorate) provided the opportunity to raise the profile of what people had the right to expect from a care service and how to make complaints".
Changing a name, however, and suggesting this alleviates serious concerns relating to the care of our elderly is, in my view, not acceptable and no elderly person in care will fear repercussions any less by complaining to the Care Inspectorate as opposed to complaining to SCSWIS or the Care Commission.
As a caring Scottish society we should welcome the comprehensive recommendations for change at the Care Inspectorate, as published in the findings of the Scottish Parliamentary inquiry, and embrace the sentiment contained in the opening statement of the inquiry's findings: "One test of the morality of a society is how it treats its elderly."
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