February 1st marks the fifth anniversary of my partner, soulmate and best friend’s suicide. It was the bravest thing to take control and make the final decision that was right for him – to end his pain. Mental health conditions can be fatal, as in his case. I wasn’t able to find a cure for his suffering, help him or give him any more hope. And he took control.
The passing of time does not lessen my loss, particularly at this time of year. Yet I have got a real purpose again these days. My desire is to make a significant positive change for the oldest old in our society. I want to give them back the control that the social care system has taken away from them. And that’s our mission at Evermore. People want wellbeing, good health – a life worth living. They don’t want “care”!
Norman Lamb is absolutely right when he said ‘the practice of “flying care visits” had no place in a civilized society, and must be stamped out within a year.’ And it’s positive news that a cross-party commission is being called for to overhaul the social care system.
Who has any answers? I’ve not heard any solutions in all the rhetoric. It’s all about funding. Media and politicians seem outraged at the terrible experiences older people endure every day…but what suggestions do they have? And as the majority of older people pay for themselves when it comes to social care, why isn’t there more choice for them?
I asked a Local Authority (LA) care commissioner recently what rate she paid for home care in her area; she answered the current rate is £12.96/hour. So it’s no surprise that few organisations can make LA contracts pay when a 15-minute slot accrues the princely sum of £3.24. That’s why the social care workforce is under-trained, exhausted and demoralised. It just doesn’t work.
I spoke at a conference of Finance Directors in the public sector over 12-months ago. I asked how many of them were on a zero hours contract, paid by the hour and were unsure of their likely take-home pay each month. No prizes for guessing that none of them had this level of insecurity in their lives. I don’t want to bash the finance guys particularly, but I do want us all to stop and think about what we’re doing. The Care Act is intended to promote wellbeing and put older people in control. That’s patently not happening.
This race to the bottom is going to affect us all if we don’t reverse it. It’s inevitable that we will all grow old…unless we take my husband’s route, which I don’t intend to.
So we’re taking action now.
We will launch Evermore@Home this Spring to support older people in their own homes, giving them back control – “Your lifestyle, your timetable, your way.” Our staff will be paid above the Living Wage with full training over several weeks. We believe this is the only way to make a service appealing to both staff and customers and, most importantly, be sustainable in the long-term. Consequently we won’t accept LA contracts unless they recognise the cost of training, developing and paying people well to deliver a service that older people will actively choose.
As I reflect on the massive impact Dr McKee had on my life and the lives of those he encountered, I hope he’s happy with my current focus and continues to give me guidance. February 1st is always a tough day in our home. That’s why I try to move forward with purpose and feed off the strength and love of my Evermore tribe worldwide.
Why not join us and create a new model for everyone?
Evermore Founder and Director of Market Innovation
Follow Sara @SaraMcKeeFRSA