Just been reading Rob Greig’s blog written in response to the recent Panorama programme. Power is a key issue to be unpacked when it comes to thinking about what happens when people receive poor care. Whilst I agree with Greig that people moving into a care home do hand over power and control –it is not a considered or negotiated handing over –it is often passive. People move in to care homes at a point in their life where their health may well have deteriorated or their capacity to make their own decisions will have diminished. Power is not a key concern for them. By necessity it is care they are in need of and those around them have the resources and often the opportunities to ensure that the power they have is kept in check and used to benefit the people they are paid to care for.
Greig suggests that there must be a public policy responsibility to ensure that any power imbalance is redressed. Independent advocacy is one way to redress the balance –but investment into advocacy is being cut back. The last government introduced a statutory to right to advocacy as part of the reforms to the Mental Health Act and Mental Capacity Act however this approach has left many older people beyond the reach of advocacy.
The Older People’s Advocacy Alliance (Opaal) has for some time called for advocacy services to be available to all older people at key points in their lives and when important decisions are being made about their care. It may take some time for that call to be heeded. However perhaps there is another way. Why not train care home staff to use advocacy principles in their work place? Why not promote self advocacy groups in care homes and closed institutions -might that approach, over time, contribute to more open practices in closed and pressurised systems?