Model behaviour for the elderly

By Leon Smith, December 28, 2012

More than a year after the Southern Cross scandal, it is evident that there is still a lot of work to be done to prevent a repeat of this type of systemic failure. The Care Minister, Norman Lamb, explained at the start of the month that the regulation of the care sector was not fit for purpose and that plans were under way to force private companies to open their books to inspectors to ensure they are financially sound.

His remarks coincided with the release of a report commissioned by Social Enterprise UK warning that the sector's domination by a handful of large, profit-led private companies had led to a fall in care standards.

There are numerous types of providers in the care sector, specifically when dealing with residential and nursing care for older people. Some private operators such as Southern Cross have collapsed, jeopardising the care of thousands of vulnerable people. The Jewish community is no exception, with large numbers of its older members living in privately operated homes.

Certainly, there are some very good private care homes. Competition in the sector is not inherently bad but it is essential that the needs of older people are put before profits. Organisations outside the private sector do a fantastic job and it is about time that the work they do and what they achieve are given the recognition it deserves.

A number of charitable providers within Anglo-Jewry have developed a "community model" underpinned by the idea that the community has a crucial responsibility to support its older members.

It is essential their needs are put above profits

This model, which can include fundraising in the community or partnering with expert organisations, enables care homes to look after residents to a standard that can be, and often is, higher than at other care homes.

The welfare of residents is not jeopardised because there is no need to make a profit. Rather, this model has enabled care homes to give residents the choices they require.

At Nightingale Hammerson, we have rolled out intensive training in person-centred care to our staff, including carers, managers, caterers and cleaners. This is possible through our partnership with the University of Bradford's centre of excellence.

Dementia support is a field that our government aspires to be a world leader in. Yet while ministers shout about this aim, they need to demonstrate here and now how seriously they take caring for the older population.

Maintaining high standards of care in a sector plagued by financial difficulties can of course be a real challenge. Funding cuts mean that charitable providers are having to rely on their supporters to plug the gap between local authority funding and the true cost of care. But thanks to the "community model", Jewish providers have developed excellent relationships with the community they serve, enabling them to fundraise extensively and build a valuable network of volunteers. Nightingale House's £6.5 million, state-of-the-art, dementia wing - funded entirely by private donations - is the epitome of this model.

Providing older people with high-quality care should not be reserved to the Jewish community. It is my firm belief that all older people across the UK should be entitled to this. With local authorities struggling to make ends meet and the entire business model of private sector companies being called into question, it is crucial that the government considers the model that serves British Jewry so well.

Leon Smith is chief executive of Nightingale Hammerson

Last updated: 9:12am, December 28 2012