An Introduction from the Commissioner

I have spoken many times over the past year about the importance of high quality residential care for older people and how the term ‘residential care’ does not adequately reflect the fact that it is someone’s home. I have travelled extensively across Wales meeting with many older people living in care homes, as well as frontline carers, and seen for myself the impact that high quality residential care can have on the lives of older people. Whilst residential care is not an option for everyone, and increasingly need not be, for many older people it will continue to be a key way in which they receive the care and support they need and are supported to live lives that have value, meaning and purpose.

However, in the past year I have received an increasing amount of correspondence about the quality of life and care of older people in residential care across Wales. I have also provided individual support to older people and their families who have found themselves in the most distressing and unacceptable of circumstances to ensure that they are safe and well cared for.

I have spoken frequently about the many excellent examples of health and social care in Wales and the many dedicated staff in both the public and private sector. However, I have also spoken publicly about what I consider to be unacceptable variations in the quality of life and care of older people in residential care. I have been clear that we fail to keep too many older people safe and free from harm, that too many older people are not treated in a compassionate and dignified way and that, for some, their quality of life is unacceptable.

I made it clear in my Framework for Action, published in April 2013, that driving up the quality and availability of health and social care was one of my five priorities. I was also clear that I expect quality of life to sit at the heart of the provision of residential care. 

I recognise that much work has taken place over the past decade within Wales, by a range of agencies and Welsh Government, to address specific aspects of residential care and that the forthcoming Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill will, for the first time, put safeguarding older people on a statutory basis. Whilst these have been important steps, my engagement with older people makes it very clear that we are not yet in a position where all older people living in residential care in Wales can be assured that they will be safe, well cared for and have a good quality of life.

I am therefore undertaking a formal Review into the quality of life and care of older people in residential care in Wales, using the powers I have under the Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Act 2006. 

Following my Review I will publish clear recommendations which the public bodies subject to my Review will be expected to comply with. In the development of these recommendations I will take into account what older people have told me must change, as well as the actions which are already underway by a range of agencies across Wales.

My Review will give a voice directly to older people and their families and will ensure that those who are accountable for and run our services understand the day-to-day realities of living within residential care in Wales. My Review will highlight the best of care, but it will also clearly illustrate the impact that poor quality of life and care has upon the lives of older people. 

Sarah Rochira
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales