Archived News

September 2017

Accidents taboo in world of perfect parenting

It seems many parents would be afraid to admit their child had an accident, because they feel so inadequate after reading posts by other parents on Facebook and Instagram.

A study produced by The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) for this year's Child Safety Week (5-11 June 2017) says that nearly three quarters of parents admit to feeling under too much pressure to be 'perfect parents'.

CAPT says the fear of being judged unfavourably on social media has worrying consequences for child safety, and wants to encourage parents to share their experiences and learn from each other. Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, says: "Parents are living under a social media microscope, too scared to admit to less than Pinterest-perfect parenting for fear of being judged. This has worrying consequences for child safety. If parents no longer feel able to share their experiences or admit what they don’t know, we lose the chance to learn from each other and stop serious accidents to children."

One parent who bravely decided to speak out is George Asan, whose two year-old daughter Francesca died in 2016 after a button battery she swallowed became lodged in her throat and burned through, causing devastating internal bleeding. George was supporting Child Safety Week to highlight the real risks to children and the simple things that families can do to stop their children suffering a serious accident.

George said: "It is very hard for me to talk about losing Francesca, but I hope that by talking about Francesca's death it will encourage other families to talk about accidents and ask questions about what they can do to stop them happening to their own children."

CAPT issues the following safety advice for parents regarding the use of button batteries:

  • Store spare button batteries well out of reach and sight
  • Keep products well out of reach if the compartment is not secured with a screw
  • Supervise children when using toys with button batteries in them
  • If you think your child may have swallowed a button battery, don't delay – take them straight to A&E or dial 999 for an ambulance.

For more information on keeping your child safe visit www.capt.org.uk

Protesters call for end to cruel sanctions

Campaigners gathered outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London and job centres across the country on Thursday 30 March as part of a national day of action to stop benefit sanctions.

Led by members of Britain's biggest union, Unite, the protesters reiterated their call for the government to stop its 'cruel and ineffective' benefit sanctions regime.

Since the Tories first came into power in May 2010 over 3 million individuals have been referred for a sanction 8 million times, says the union. Over 318,000 people have had their welfare payments cut or stopped without warning in the last year, affecting thousands of children and dependent adults. Sanctions are given for reasons such as missing or being late for appointments with the job centre, or being too sick to 'actively seek work'. As a result, many families have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. 'How is this meant to help prepare people for work?' asks Unite.

Liane Groves, head of Unite Community said: "The government really needs to stop the cruel use of benefit sanctions which are destroying lives. The stress they are putting on people, and the effect on their children and wider families, is unacceptable. We should all be shocked.

"The government has shown no evidence that benefit sanctions are working. The opposite is true, when people are in survival mode, fighting to put food on their family's table or stressing how they will pay their bills means their mental and physical heath suffers and finding work is so much harder.

"Rather than punishing the unemployed for not having a job the government should be helping people get jobs. People need a hand up – not a slap down."

According to the Trussell Trust, one of the main providers of food banks, more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels were distributed to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17 – over 188,500 to children. The most common reason given for people turning to the food bank charity was problems and delays with their benefits.

Unite is also concerned that if people do not appeal against their first sanction, if they are sanctioned again, they will be sanctioned for longer - leaving people without money for three months or up to three years depending on the level of 'offence'.

Judge rules for common sense above procedure

Britain's most senior family judge says that the social services need to focus less on procedures and take a "common sense" approach when placing older couples in residential care.

Sir James Munby, head of the family court, has advised members of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) to think carefully before recommending that an older person is separated from their beloved family, home and possessions. Above all, he said, their wishes to stay together must be taken into consideration.

Sir James who is, himself, due to retire next year, says he feels a "personal outrage" at the "inhumanity" of separating couples who have spent decades together.

Broken heart syndrome, or stress cardiomyopathy, is acknowledged as a real condition caused by shock such as bereavement or separation in which the left ventricle changes shape, weakening the heart muscle. Normally survivable, it can be fatal in elderly people or those with a pre-existing heart condition.

This was borne out in a 2014 study which found that the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke was double in the month following the death of a loved-one.

Margaret Willcox, president of ADASS, said social workers worked hard to keep couples together if that was what they wanted but added that it wasn't necessarily straightforward.

"There are always complex issues to consider, such as how to make this work where relationships are abusive, or when one person in the couple has needs the other can't cope with," she said.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "In some cases partners may have different care needs but except in rare situations couples who want to stay together should be allowed to so.

"When councils arrange care for an older person they have a legal duty to ensure it meets their needs. They have to take into account their psychological needs, as well as how any arrangements will respect their right to family life under the Human Rights Act."

Not just for the young

We tend to think that problem drinking is an issue for the young, but we now know that this is a far bigger issue for people as they get older. It is estimated that 1 in 3 adults aged over 65 with an alcohol problem will have developed this in later life. Changes such as retirement, bereavement, and isolation can be triggers, and research shows that many older people are over-drinking and often at home on their own. As we age, we become more vulnerable to the harm that can be caused by problem drinking. The result is that hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions have more than doubled in less than a decade.

Drink Wise Age Well is an organisation which aims to help people make healthier choices about drinking as they get older. It also urges everyone to be aware of possible problems among older family members - particularly if they have recently been affected by any of the changes in life experience and circumstances that can cause older people to drink more alcohol.

These include retirement, medical problems, changes in routine, or loss and bereavement. Many older people may experience other challenges such as changing financial circumstances, housing difficulties, or moving into residential care. The nature of relationships can also change – for example, becoming a carer for a spouse can change life circumstances quite significantly.

Isolation and loneliness can increase as social networks change. To cope, some people may start drinking more, often at home and often alone.

For younger family members, it can be difficult to tell if a loved one is drinking too much and whether this will affect their health. In all age groups, the majority of alcohol problems remain undiagnosed, but alcohol problems are even less likely to be detected in older adults.

Older people with alcohol problems are often ashamed of their alcohol use and may be more likely to try to hide it. The signs can also be difficult to notice. For example, things like confusion or falls are often wrongly attributed to ageing rather than drinking too much.

Drink Wise Age Well says there are a number of signs which may indicate a person is drinking alcohol to the extent that it is causing them problems. They say it is important to be aware if an older relative or friend has become more isolated, stopped doing activities they previously enjoyed, or seemed to have changed in their home environment, personal appearance or general demeanour.

If you have concerns over someone close to you, visit http://drinkwiseagewell.org.uk for useful advice on identifying problem drinking and how to deal with it.

If you or the person you are concerned about lives in any of the 5 Drink Wise Age Well areas, you can call the local help lines for advice and practical support:

Sheffield: 0800 032 3723

Devon: 0800 304 7034

Glasgow: 0800 304 7690

Cwm Taf, Wales: 0800 161 5780

Fed up with confusing jargon?

Do you find yourself getting caught up in knots trying to understand the difference between a Disabilities-related Expense (DRE) and a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)?

The Care and Support Jargon Buster is an award-winning plain English guide to the most commonly used health and social care words and phrases and what they mean. The definitions are plain English rather than legal, and were developed and tested by a steering group that included people who use services, carers and other representatives from across the social care sector.

Click here to access the Care and Support Jargon Buster

Older employed people face cuts to working hours

New research raises concerns for State Pension age decisions and the uncertainty surrounding the triple lock guarantee, as the average number of hours worked by older employees in the UK drops.

Recent Age UK analysis finds that, despite the widely reported increase in employment rates for older workers since the 2008 recession, the more hidden flip side is that the number of hours worked has declined since then.

The concern is that, if policymakers only look at the headline employment rate for older workers, they risk drawing too rosy a conclusion about how easy it is for older people to stay in well paid, secure work, whereas the reality for many is far less positive. This is especially pertinent now, as the Government responds to John Cridland CBE’s independent report into State Pension Age, published in March.

Using new analysis, Age UK’s report looks beyond the positive headline employment figures for older workers, examining in more detail how the number of hours typically worked has changed since before the 2008 recession and aiming to uncover more about how the labour market has really developed for older workers. The Charity argues that, whilst it is correct to say that the employment rates for older workers have improved in recent years, the pattern of hours worked is far more complex and less reassuring than is often portrayed.

The study finds that the weekly working hours for a typical man aged 60 to 64 had dropped by 8 hours, which is over 22 per cent. In the 50-54 age group, there was a 29 per cent decline in average hours worked each week since the 2008 recession. For women aged 50-54 there has been an 18 per cent drop, equating to 29.3 to 24.1 hours.

A reduction in hours of working could, of course, be a positive sign if it reflects the fact that older workers are choosing to gradually scale down their hours, for example to help them juggle other responsibilities. However, previous Age UK research suggests it is more likely to be driven by negative factors, including the rise of insecure employment.

The Charity points out that, if older workers work fewer hours, they are likely to earn less. This is a concern because it will make it harder for people to maintain their standard of living until they reach their State Pension Age, and harder to keep putting money aside to help them enjoy a comfortable retirement once they stop working.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “It goes without saying that if you work fewer hours you will earn less, and for older workers who are compelled to do less work than they would like, it could make it a lot tougher to withstand any rise in State Pension Age, let alone have any spare income to save for their retirement.

“When the Government responds to John Cridland’s independent report into the State Pension Age, it is really important that Ministers look beyond the headline rate of employment of older workers at what is actually going on for millions of people in their fifties and sixties who are struggling to get and keep the secure, well paid jobs they want and need.

“As John Cridland himself advised, the Government needs to do more to enable those who can work longer to do so, for example, by improving re-training opportunities, and by increasing the practical and financial support on offer for carers and people with severe health problems who are unable to get back to work.

“Looking ahead, we also think it is crucial that the State Pension continues to retain its value to give people more financial security so they can look forward to later life with confidence, not fear. For example, research has shown that abandoning the triple lock would significantly reduce the chance that someone with low earnings can retire with an adequate income.”

Age UK is urging older people with employment issues to visit www.ageuk.org.uk/work-and-learning/looking-for-work/ or call its advice line on freephone 0800 169 65 65.