Empathic Urbanite

social business for urban development

Government is failing the needs of older ethnic minority people

Government’s ‘colour-blind’ approach to social care is failing the needs of older ethnic minority people

A new report by the Runnymede Trust, A Sense of Place: Retirement Decisions among Older Black and Minority Ethnic People, shows the hardships faced by older people who cannot speak English – mainly, the exclusion from health and social care services. As I set up Three Sisters Care with precisely this demographic in mind, I am not at all surprised by the findings. Localgov.uk summarises the report with this:

“The think tank found that many older ethnic minority people feel their current care provision fails to take into consideration their language  and cultural needs. The report calls on Government to provide more  tailored care, especially given the older ethnic minority population is due to grow from 230,000 in 2001 to 2.7 million by 2051. Language was the biggest area of concern, with many non-English speaking older people saying they would not be able to communicate health problems to those around them. Runnymede head of policy, Dr Omar Khan, said: ‘Rather than being doctrinaire in their approach, then, government and other agencies must be more flexible in considering whether specialised or universal responses are appropriate to older ethnic minority needs, and be willing to change their approach given the enormous demographic changes on the horizon in the coming decades.'”

Ofcourse I’m not surprised at all, following my own two year research to determine and design the services of Three Sisters Care. But what does surprise me  is that we need this fancy report to tell us what we already know. There is very little in here that is new to me or to any manager within social services, disability support, personal care or the health care sector in areas with high levels of ethnic minorities. It’s interesting to read about ethnic minorities in rural areas or areas with traditionally lower BME populations, especially considering that more minorities are spreading out into the countryside – see attached table.

Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 10.42.17

But back to practicalities, it’s helpful to have data to point to ofcourse, and I have no intention of undermining the work of Runnymede. Instead what I’m trying to say is local authorities, central government, voluntary sector, everyone involved; can we please just get on with it? We know what the hurdles are, we know what the solutions are – the report talks about ties to existing networks and relationships, transport to shops catering to ethnic groups (food, clothes, hairdressers), the sense of security felt by living amongst your own ethnic group, the importance of being near grandchildren…seriously, do we need think tanks and pen pushers to tell us any of this like we have no clue what the people we work with every day want? It’s very sad that I’ll be walking around with this report to reinforce my points when meeting with Council officials, because despite knowing all this through human interactions, in today’s bureaucracies, we need this sort of backup to validate why we are taking the actions we are taking. So I’m glad; whatever I think about unoriginal studies, on balance, this is very good for us. Thanks Runnymede.

Download PDF of report here: ASenseOfPlace-2012

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