Ex-Soldier’s Plight – More Care Homes Should Meet Needs Of Under 65s

Demos-LogoDemos: Ex-soldier’s plight shows more care homes should meet needs of under-65s

  • Think-tank commission aims to reform sector as research shows care homes don’t always meet needs of younger disabled people
  • ‘Good care for younger people is life-changing but too hard to find’ – says Commissioner Clare Pelham

An influential think-tank Commission has stressed the need for more care homes to cater for working-age people, after the plight of a British war veteran left him isolated and without support.

Alan Murray, a former RAF reservist, suffered a heart attack a decade ago aged 50. A brain injury, resulting from a delayed ambulance, meant he required round-the-clock residential care. However, his first care home couldn’t cope with Mr Murray’s specific needs as the other residents were mainly older people.

This all-too-common problem for working-age people in care was only solved when Mr Murray was moved to a Leonard Cheshire Disability care home in Inverness that recognised the importance of socialising with residents his own age and making decisions about his life.

Demos polling reveals that people’s top priorities, if they become disabled before old age, are ‘being close to family’ (48%) and ‘remaining independent’ (44%).

These beat medical concerns such as ‘having carers or medical staff nearby’ (36%) or ‘having someone on hand to look after me’ (23%).

However, when they were subsequently asked which locations would best meet their needs, only 2% said a care home. Instead, a quarter (25%) would prefer living with family or friends (25%), or in adapted housing (21%).

The findings will feed into the Commission on Residential Care (CORC) – chaired by former Care Minister Paul Burstow MP and supported by Demos. The year-long Commission is tackling the most pressing issues in the residential care sector, and finding solutions that can ensure the sector is able to meet the growing number of younger generations needing care.

The rise of working-age disabled care

Recent PSSRU data says Britain can expect a 32% increase in younger adults with learning disabilities requiring care by 2030, and it goes on to show that residential care is the sector expected to see the most growth in demand.

Injured armed forces will also increase demand. Since 2005, 18,650 people have been awarded payments under the Armed Forced Compensation Scheme. However, Ministry of Defence figures reveal that almost half of the individual 47,670 claims made in that period (41%) were rejected.

The Sun last month reported on a Demos essay, which called for a British GI Bill for wounded war veterans, to ensure they receive better education, training and support after returning to civilian life.

Former RAF serviceman, Alan Murray, said:

“I wasn’t ready to be living in a home with people who were more than thirty years older than me. It was a morbid experience and this made me feel frustrated. All my life I had been an active man who had his independence and this was taken away from me. I desperately missed the rapport and camaraderie I had with my RAF colleagues.
Since I have moved to Cheshire House I have regained control of my life and enjoy the freedom to come and go as I please.”

Commenting on the findings, Claudia Wood, Chief Executive at Demos, said:

“When people think of care homes they think of old age, but medical advances means there will be more and more younger disabled people in the UK. Some need a lot of support and often only care homes can deliver this. But too few are geared to helping young people – we need a rethink about what care is on offer and where, as our society changes.”

Clare Pelham, Chief Executive of the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability and one of the members of the Demos Commission, said:

“The number of working-age people who become disabled through illness or injury is increasing. Disability can happen to anyone and when it does people have a right to expect first class care, tailored to meet their needs and ambitions, no matter how old they are.
“Good care does not need to resemble an old-fashioned image of a traditional care home for older people. It can be (and often is) support in independent flats or bungalows. Leonard Cheshire supports disabled people of all ages with complex needs to live independently in this way. In this day and age disabled people must not be denied the opportunity to enjoy a social life and independence that others take for granted. For Alan, the fact that he now has his own front and back door and chooses how he lives his life has been genuinely life changing.”