FAMILIES have reacted with fury after elderly people were given just 10 days to share their experiences of care homes during the pandemic via social media for an official government-funded report.

The Care Inspectorate posted a message on Facebook asking residents or those who receive home care to email or call to set up an telephone interview as part of its “People at the Centre” project.

The post provoked an angry response from families who branded it a “sham consultation” and “box ticking exercise” while Labour’s Health Spokeswoman Monica Lennon questioned why relatives were not involved.

TV sports presenter Alison Walker, whose parents Sandy, 88, and Olive, 85, are in the same care home said: “I would doubt any care home residents are on Facebook or any social media. It’s quite ridiculous.

“Some (very few) residents might be able to speak on the phone but if they don’t have dementia, they are hard of hearing and certainly could not speak without support.

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"Most residents are so institutionalised they don’t say or do anything without instruction from staff.”

The Care Inspectorate is facing tough questions after it emerged that local authority homes were far less likely to be checked than private ones over the course of the pandemic.

Renaissance Care said analysis of a freedom of information (FOI) response it received from the Care Inspectorate found council-run homes, which account for around 15% of all care homes in Scotland, had received under 5% of visits since March 23.

The private firm said if the sectors were treated equally, the number of inspections at local authority homes should be more than three times higher.

In response to the consultation post shared on Facebook, the Care Inspectorate said all social care providers had been notified to encourage residents to take part and participants who required it would be given support.

Labour’s Monica Lennon  said she welcomed the platform for older people to share their views on social care during the pandemic but said it was essential that this was done with the help of an, “independent advocate.”

READ MORE: Falkirk care home loses 20 residents in one month to Covid-19

She added: “People living in care homes have become invisible during the pandemic and their voices and wishes have not been heard. 

“Any attempt to genuinely give them a platform is welcome, however, it’s taken eight months for this to happen and a 10 day consultation that very few people appear to know about feels like tokenism.”

Richard Carrey, whose father is in a care home, believes the post could be in breach of disability rights laws.

He said: “It’s a sham consultation as the large proportion of the supposed audience will neither know it’s being done nor be able to take part because they have Dementia and other disabilities. 

“An internet advert and telephone interview are not viable media for them. 

“It’s a box ticking exercise to they can say “we asked the people in care homes.

“There is clearly no desire to have them participate.”

However, Professor June Andrews, who is an expert in the care of older people, said it was important to recognise that care homes are not exclusively for people who “lack capacity” and said it was legitimate to use as may channels as possible to boost participation.

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She said: “The Care Inspectorate wants to gather opinions of people who receive care.  
“Care homes are not exclusively for older people and people who lack capacity, although the majority are.   

“It is legitimate to use any channel that works.  

“Very many younger people in receipt of care are likely to use these channels so responses received this way directly from them will be important.  

“Any analysis must make it clear which sort of care user is being given a voice, and what sort of care they are having, which presumably is ascertained at the follow up phone call. 

“It might have been helpful if it had been made clear to begin with who the target audience was, to avoid making already stressed people cross.”

Meanwhile,  the First Minister has responded after it emerged in reports that hospitals have continued to discharge patients into care homes after testing positive for Covid-19, insisting it has always been allowed in “exceptional circumstances.”

Nicola Sturgeon said during yesterday’s briefing that the Scottish Government’s policy - thought to prevent infected patients being moved from hospitals to care homes - has always contained exemptions, including in end of life cases.

Care homes in Scotland were hit hardest by coronavirus, with a  higher percentage of deaths than any other part of the UK, according to a report

University of Stirling research found that almost two-thirds (65%) of Scotland’s 1,057 care homes had suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, compared with 44% of homes in England, 37% in Northern Ireland and 33% in Wales.

A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said: “The ‘People at the Centre’ project is funded by the Scottish Government and led by The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, working with the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Care.   

“It is important that the views of people experiencing care and where needed those who represent them are heard, although we appreciate that in the current situation this is challenging.  

“There are a variety of ways to give feedback, by filling in a printed form, an on-line questionnaire, or by someone else contributing on their behalf.  

“Facebook is one method of making people aware of the project , however all adult social care providers have been sent a communication encouraging them to support people to take part, while recognising the huge pressures which services are currently under.

“Feedback will be used anonymously to form part of a report for the Scottish Government to inform decisions about any changes to health and social care support”.