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BBC OnePanorama


Last Updated: Monday, 3 November 2003, 11:58 GMT
A carer's story
Person with carer

"When I started as a carer I knew it was a hard job but I had no idea that at the end of it I would feel this upset. Now I'm absolutely terrified of getting old."

For three months this summer, Fran Baker, an assistant producer for the BBC Panorama programme, worked undercover as a care worker looking after frail, elderly people living at home alone, recording her experiences with a secret camera hidden in her uniform.

As Britain's elderly population increases, the government are keen to see more people cared for at home but regulation of homecare is in its infancy.

Fran was sent out alone with little or no training, a false CV, no police check and inadequate references, Fran worked for a number of homecare agencies in Brighton and Liverpool for up to 16 hours a day - sometimes for as little as 5.60 an hour.

Fran's secret recordings reveal disturbing evidence about the quality of care being provided at home to some of Britain's most frail and vulnerable older people by some agencies ignoring the very regulations designed to protect those they care for.

For example:

  • "Call-cramming" - where agencies "double-book" appointments which can lead to visits being cut to as little as 15 minutes.
  • Elderly people left alone for hours - sometimes in wet and dirty incontinence pads - not knowing whether their care worker is going to turn up.
  • An agency manager in a taped phone call describing an elderly woman with Alzheimer's as a "witch"

Bill McClimont, chairman of the UK Homecare Association, told the programme that "homecase was at a crossroads", and warns that unless it was given the level of priority it deserves, it could "subside into absolute chaos."

He adds that unless the workforce is trained and regulated there will be "little control" over what happens to the elderly at home.

Production team:
Reporter: Fran Baker
Written and narrated by: Sarah Barclay
Producer: Liz Bloor
Assistant Producers: Matthew Cottingham, Ed Jarvis
Deputy Editors: Andy Bell, Sam Collyns
Editor: Mike Robinson

A carer's diary - Merseyside
16 Nov 03 |  Panorama
A carer's diary - Brighton
16 Nov 03 |  Panorama
The problem with home care
17 Nov 03 |  Panorama
Your comments
16 Nov 03 |  Panorama

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