Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Neighbourliness: A Potential Life Saver

I was saddened to read this: about Gloria Foster: an elderly woman from Surrey, who basically starved alone in her house for 9 days, after the agency providing her care was shut down after a UK Border Agency raid. Tragically, support did not get to her in time, and she died two weeks ago in hospital.

It's not clear what went wrong, but somehow she was left without any care whatsoever.

I can imagine how her neighbours feel. They probably wish they'd done more, but they probably assumed social care had it all covered.

Imagine the difference if she'd been able to use a circle facilitator/community connector - if a couple of neighbours had been invited to bob in once a week, been given permission to nip in for a chat put her bins out for her or take her cat to the vets. The kind of things neighbours used to do for each other.

This informal 'circle of support' might have noticed that suddenly nobody was turning up. That Gloria was in desperate need of help, made that crucial phone call to social services.
Neighbourliness Doesn't Have To Be A Thing Of the Past

Organising an informal circle wouldn't have cost a lot of money, compared to the cost of homecare 4X a day, but it could have helped her be less lonely and isolated from her local community.
Would it have saved her life? I don't know, but I do think her life would have been less lonely, and loneliness is our 21st Century plague.

There are definitely many questions to be answered here, I'm assuming this provider was chosen on cost grounds, but nobody seems to have checked how the provider could manage to be so cheap, it appears they were exploiting the cheap labour of illegal immigrants in order to do this.

I don't think a circle could 'replace' formal care. You can only ask so much of your neighbours. However without a circle, a person's vulnerability increases due to the one dimensional nature of their support. Circles might not save money initially, though in the long term they could act as a form of prevention. Lonely socially isolated people tend to die 7 years earlier than average. Being lonely and unconnected is as lethal as smoking.

 A circle of support might not replace formal care, but it can keep those carers in their place, enabling the person to get the best out of their supports and hold their professional carers to account.

If Gloria had be 8, instead of in her 80s, this story would have got far more publicity. The tabloids would be calling for senior heads to roll, whether or not they had anything to  do with the mistakes that were made. Instead, because Gloria was an elderly woman, her story is relegated to a small paragraph, another sad footnote about the failings of the formal care system.

The inquiry, by Surrey Safeguarding Adults board is not believed to be a serious case review...


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