Home care is an important and growing sector of employment, including both care workers working for public authorities or private or voluntary sector organisations or personal assistants employed directly by older people themselves.
Care workers who deliver support to older people in their own homes can play a pivotal role in promoting and protecting human rights. They may be the only contact with the outside world the person they are visiting has that day (or even that week).
The combination of frequent lone working and high levels of individual responsibility, coupled with the need for highly developed communication and practical skills required by good home care workers are found in few other jobs afforded such low value in our labour market.
Care in people’s own homes allows older people to continue to live as they wish even once they can no longer carry out all their day-to-day tasks without support. As long as older people have the good quality care they need to support them at home, they can keep their independence and control over their lives in familiar surroundings.
Around half of the older people, friends and family members who responded to our call for evidence reported that they are satisfied with the service received.
"The Council home care service is ultra reliable, even in bad weather, and they are always cheerful … I have tremendous respect for the work they do."
They most often highlighted that they were happy with:
- consistency of staff
- staff interacting positively with them or having time to talk to them
- control over tasks to be carried out.
Many older people placed great value on conversation, being able to have a chat or a laugh together – indeed, for some this is more important than getting all the practical tasks done.
Older people also emphasised the importance of how services are provided. The attitude and approach of home care workers while carrying out tasks were of real significance to them.
Older people said they expected and wanted to be treated as individuals by care workers to:
- be the focus of attention during visits
- have their needs and wishes listened to, understood and attended to
- be spoken to kindly and politely.
Evidence from care workers suggests that they were instinctively, if not consciously, using human rights principles to inform their work with older people.
Valuing older people as individuals, respecting their dignity and independence and understanding the value of social interaction are all hallmarks of an approach that promotes and protects human rights.
Many older people are highly satisfied with their home care and there is no doubt that good quality home care has a huge positive impact on their lives. However, the problems set out in our main report - whilst not the full picture - do represent a range of older people’s experiences and raise issues of real concern.
It is clear that some older people were likely to have been victims of breaches of their human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. In many instances it is impossible to think of any circumstances that would justify the treatment these older people received.
In other cases, care workers believe they can’t help, due to health and safety or possibly food standards regulations.
Well trained care workers play an important part in protecting older people in vulnerable situations from financial exploitation for example from other people.
We received evidence from home care workers who worked for local authorities and in the private and voluntary sectors. The vast majority of workers highlighted aspects of their jobs with which they were dissatisfied, and identified elements which stopped them working in the way that they would like. These issues reflected the areas that older people themselves raised with us.
One of the most frequent issues raised by workers, particularly from the voluntary and private sectors, was not having enough time to deliver care to a standard that they wanted. One in four workers who responded to the call for evidence mentioned this as one of the least satisfying elements of their job.
Recommendations for care workers
One of the key recommendations from our Inquiry is to address the status of care workers particularly those related to promoting and protecting human rights.
Last updated: 05 Jan 2018