Help me find out how to address the UK care crisis

The issues affecting care homes never seem to change. John Kennedy launches a year-long inquiry into how to make care work.

Ever since I first worked as a care assistant in the mid-1980s, care homes have been in some kind of crisis or turmoil. The issues are the same now as they were 30 years ago. The pressures, though, are growing more and more acute as our society ages.

I am now responsible for the management of a range of services including care homes and housing-based support and I want to find out what we can do about it. That is why, supported by JRF, I am embarking on an inquiry into risk and relationships in care homes.

What is it that needs to change? The half a million people currently living in care homes is likely to rise significantly in the near future. These people are our parents, our siblings, our friends and one day ourselves! Chronic concerns about quality of care, funding, pay, regulation continue to persist, in spite of numerous commissions, inquiries, regulators and Government interventions.

I want to get under the skin of care homes in the UK and discover what people really think, what has to change, what is good and why.

Over the next 12 months, I’ll be visiting care homes and talking to people with real experience; residents, relatives, friends, care staff, managers, cleaners, volunteers.

I’ll also be posing a series of questions to expose the real issues, get an honest debate going, and expose the contradictions and misconceptions that exist in the relationship between care homes, residents, staff and the general public.

So please let me know what you think, by commenting on this blog.

What do we already know?

  • The quality and equality of good relationships is key – respect for individuals’ personalities, sense of humour; trust me as I trust you?
  • People working in care homes often feel overwhelmed, anxious, self-doubting, guilty and under attack.
  • The public perceives care homes as unwanted, expensive, unkind, indifferent and miserable places.

Care homes just don’t seem to work for us. Or do they?

A recent MORI survey found a surprisingly high level of satisfaction amongst care home residents. Are care homes that awful? Are our expectations too high or too low? What is the reality?

What makes a good care home and what gets in the way? Is there something about our attitude to risk? Do the 'rules and regulations', designed to protect and ensure quality, do so or do they actually get in the way? Are they the right 'rules and regulations'?

What do I want to do?

I want to get out there and visit people and places known for excellent relationships – to understand how this has been achieved. I also want to visit and speak to people in places that are not succeeding. I want to hear why. What is in the way?

I want to encourage people with experience and knowledge to talk about what they think is really the problem. I am sure there is plenty of 'unspoken' truth just waiting to be heard. I also want to speak to people with no experience of care homes. What do they think, what is their perception?

This is personal, because if I am fortunate enough to live to a good age I want to be cared for in a nice place by valued and compassionate people – people who treat me kindly and have the time to care.

So please join me on this journey and let's see if we can make a better future.