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Vulnerable adults let down by system, Older People's Commissioner for Wales review finds

Ahead of the publication of the results of a review by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, the Director of Protection, Scrutiny and Human Rights, Anna Buchanan, warns a lack of communication could hurt elderly people and their families.

Ms Buchanan, who has served as the Commissioner’s director for the past five years, gave the keynote speech at today’s Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults in Wales conference.

John Williams2

John Williams, Head of the Department of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University, chaired the conference

After her speech, she said: “Sometimes there’s not sufficient communication about what the system is and it’s a very complex system.

“There’s a lot of parallel systems alongside each other so in an adult protection investigation you can also have police investigation, you can also¬† have a complaints process, all running alongside each other and people don’t know which one relates to which. Part of the carer’s job is to explain what’s going on.

But according to Ms Buchanan, the staff’s inability to explain the situation sometimes leads to confusion.

“Often it causes so much miscommunication at the beginning that no matter how you explain it they always just see it as ‘my mother died’.”

When asked whether professional carers should be trained to be able to explain to families how the system works, she said: “I think there’s enough training but often people can’t attend it because they’re busy with other things.”

“It’s a complex system but people should be able to explain the system in easy terms.”

As the Social Services and Wellbeing Bill is still currently being amended, Ms Buchanan anticipates more challenges.

“We are going to have a new system that is coming online which won’t be much different to the current one but there will still be things to consider.

“As professionals struggle to come to terms with that they need to remember that there’s a public there that will have to interact with our system, this is not going to stop.

She added: “For me ultimately we can have a brilliant system. Most people come into public service because they want to serve the public but it can become very difficult, you have to get yourself into self-preservation mode.”

The Director also warned that privatisation of care services must be monitored closely by councils to protect elderly people.

The councils cannot commission care homes and then leave them unwatched, she said. “Commissioning is a huge area, to be looked at.”

The conference, which was attended by 60 professionals from the social care field, was held at Park Plaza Hotel. It was chaired by John Williams, the head of the Department of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University.

At the conference, he said the Data Protection Act also contributes to the system’s lack of communication. Mr Williams said: “The Data Protection Act is one of the biggest obstacles.

“People believe that it means that you can’t tell anybody anything. In fact you can. What the Data Protection Act does is to tell you how to store units of information.”

He explains that to improve the system, carers should understand that sharing information is vital to the well being of older people.