Neighbourhood Watch 'could help lonely'
Published on 15 July 2013 11:30 AM
'Lonely and miserable' older people should be helped by Neighbourhood Watch groups as well as potential crime victims, according to a health minister.
Older people, said Norman Lamb, could even be washed and fed by these groups, which he suggested should apply for 'care status'. But he stresses that they will not replace professionals.
Mr Lamb told the Daily Telegraph: 'The truth is that many people in this day and age live miserable lives.'
He warned that care services were being placed under growing stress due to the an increasingly older population.
Just under 4 million older people are thought to live alone, while there are about 170,000 neighbourhood watch groups in England and Wales.
Mr Lamb said if someone resides on their own and has significant care needs, and the extent of their life is getting out of bed, getting washed, sitting in a chair and going back to bed, with no one to see during the day, that is a miserable life.
He added: 'We have a national movement that looks out for whether our houses are being burgled, so should we not be thinking - all of us stepping up to the plate - about whether there are people on our streets who have care needs, or who might just be very lonely and could do with a bit of companionship?'
'Neighbourhood Watch groups will never be a substitute for professional carers' - Norman Lamb
The Liberal Democrat rejected claims that the proposals represented the 'state abdicating its responsibility'.
He said that the measures were about 'recognising that there needs to be a collaboration between communities and the statutory authorities and services'.
Mr Lamb emphasised that Neighbourhood Watch groups would never be a substitute for professionals, especially in medical matters.
He added: 'If particular neighbours get to a point where there is such a strong bond or relationship that people want to help in particular ways, no government should be telling them what they can and can't do.'
Mr Lamb proposed that professional carers could provide Neighbourhood Watch groups with training, and suggested that an 'awful lot' could be done via the internet.
He said that guidance and support through this route could easily be a 'good collaboration between a local caring service and the neighbours on that street'.
'The Government must commit to proper care funding' - Age UK
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK commented, 'Age UK would encourage people to be good neighbours and friends to the millions of lonely and isolated older people living in our communities who would appreciate seeing a friendly face.
'Good neighbours can make a real difference but are no substitute for a well-supported care system which helps people with a range of care needs, including everyday tasks such as washing and dressing. Often helping older people with these tasks can require specialist skills such as manual handling so that older people are treated safely with sensitivity and dignity.
'Also, already 1 in 8 adults is an unpaid carer, with 1.25million caring for more than 50 hours a week.
'Sadly we know too many older people are being forced to struggle on alone, robbed of their dignity and independence because the social care system is currently under-funded. Neighbours can go so far, but we must face up to the reality of our ageing population and the Government must commit to funding the professional care and support they need.'
Copyright Press Association 2013