Tag Archives: media

Continuing care still a grey area

New Year; same old social care news stories. This one from the Daily Mail  tells the story of Phyllis Knight, a lady so badly affected by Alzheimer’s disease that she spent 4 days living with the dead body of her husband before neighbours discovered what had happened, yet has been turned down for NHS Continuing Care funding, which would ensure she gets her care home fees paid for.

Her local PCT decided that Phyllis’ needs are social care related, rather than health care, which means that the local authority assess her eligibility for services. And because Phyllis has assets of more than £23,500, she doesn’t get any state help.

It is a story that has been told many times before and sadly, dementia represents a big grey area in health and social care; the crux is whether people with dementia primarily have social care needs – such as help dressing, washing or cooking – or health care needs, like nursing care.

And it can be tricky to decide this, as people from the NHS have admitted to me. With a physical disability, it can be easier to tell what needs someone has on a day-to-day basis because their condition is (relatively) stable, but someone with dementia often has needs that can vary markedly, depending on what sort of day they are having.

Indeed, in the earlier stages of dementia, it may be social care that the person needs, and only as the condition advances, they need nursing care.

Making a decision to award continuing care or not is also difficult because it is down to a human judgement. No matter how clearly the guidelines are framed, no 2 judgements can be the same.

This issue may get addressed when (if?) the government reforms adult care funding – a White Paper is awaited with baited breath after the consultation closed late last year – with some talk of some health and social care monies being merged together. But this is only conjecture. 

But what won’t happen is the government paying for the care of all people with dementia. With about 700,000 estimated to have some form of dementia in the UK, that bill would be too much for the NHS to take.

So, for the time being, again, the newspapers will have an easy story to file every few months when the next disgruntled family decide to go to the media to complain.

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Filed under adult social care, dementia, Social care funding

Breaking sport’s mental health stigma

It is the illness that dare not speak its name. Mental health has traditionally been one of sport’s great taboos; nobody talked about it, and those who did risked ridicule and career suicide.

For instance, footballer Stan Collymore was openly ridiculed by his then manager John Gregory and the press when he sought treatment for depression in 1999. When boxer Frank Bruno was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, the ever-sensitive Sun ran the headline ‘Bonkers Bruno locked up’ – although this was changed in later editions.

It’s no wonder sports stars keep things bottled up. Admitting to a perceived weakness in the macho world of sport is just not done; they could be considered unstable or unreliable by managers, and opposition players and fans would ruthlessly use it against them.

The tragic death of German goalkeeper Robert Enke demonstrates an extreme conclusion of this stigma and the fear of its effects.

But Enke’s death may prove to be a turning point in addressing mental health stigma in sport – and more widely. The story was reported around the world and gave people an insight into the mind of someone with depression.

This was followed last night by an Inside Sport special on BBC1. The programme took a considered look at mental health problems in sport – including high-profile cases such as cricketer Marcus Trescothick and Bruno.

The programme eschewed sensationalism and gave them time to explain how they feel when they are suffering problems and – just as importantly – how they manage it and now lead ‘normal’ lives again.

The fact that these two, and others, such as Serena Williams, Neil Lennon and Ronnie O’Sullivan have ‘come out’ and admitted to having mental health problems is helping to slowly break down the stigma.

It shouldn’t be surprising that sportspeople suffer mental health problems, because the pressures must be intense; coping with the expectations of coaches, fans and the media; trying to be the best in the world; dealing with the highs and lows that sport brings; keeping at the peak of physical fitness, for example.

After all, they aren’t superhuman. While some may be fabulously remunerated for, essentially, playing games for a living, it doesn’t change their basic human nature. Money doesn’t make you happy.

While Robert Enke’s death shows how deeply ingrained the stigma of mental health problems – or fear of stigma – still is, people are beginning to understand more about it and that it is an illness and not simply a case of someone ‘pulling themselves together’. Today, Collymore and Bruno would be viewed much more sympathetically, including by the national media.

Programmes like Inside Sport, and idolised sports stars admitting their problems, will help to change attitudes. It may be a long, slow process, but it is changing and hopefully that will mean that there will not be more cases like Enke in the future.

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Filed under Mental health

Social workers leave due to ‘Baby P effect’

In possibly one of the least surprising social work stories of the year, statistics from the Local Government Association  have emerged that 6 in 10 councils are finding it difficult to recruit and retain children’s social workers.

This is an increase of 50% on the previous year, and the LGA blames the national media vilification of those involved directly in the Baby P case – and a more general damning of children’s social work as well – for scaring potential social workers away. The coverage also served to dampen morale in most social work departments.

While there have been moves to improve the image of children’s social work in the media – last week’s Panorama, for example – the vast majority of stories are still negative, which only serve to reinforce already well-entrenched anti-social work views.

Well, who would want to be a children’s social worker when you are viewed as either a child snatcher or so clueless that you can’t spot when a child is being severely abused? Not many of us.

The LGA’s figures, though unsurprising, are worrying. Many children’s services departments already complain of being overworked and understaffed, and it seems the problem is being exacerbated by the media vilification.

Of course, the more overstretched children’s departments become, the greater the chance of another Baby P happening, which would start up the media witch-hunt again and put even more off social work, and so on. 

This vicious circle needs to be stopped quickly, and it needs good communication from social work departments. For instance, while there are some local schemes that are successfully stemming the tide of departures, often neighbouring councils know nothing of it, because no-one tells them about it.

Councils need to shout about successful recruitment and retention projects from the rooftops, not just to other councils – although that is crucial – but the media too; newspapers won’t publish positive stories unless they know about them.

This way, things can change and the image of social work can – gradually – be restored.

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Filed under children's social work