The advice is designed to help people choose the best care services for their personal needs, and maintain their independence and quality of life. It encourages people to talk to the right care professionals, ask the right questions, and become better informed in the way they choose their care. The commission also today launched a new website designed to give the public better information on choosing the right care for them, and find lists of registered care providers and inspection reports for their area.
'Many people feel lost when trying to find their way around the system. They don't always get the advice and help they need. As a result, some end up moving into care homes, when in reality, they would have been able to stay in their own homes. Others end up paying over the odds for a level of care they don't need.
'This information is designed to help people at what might be a very difficult and pressurised time in their lives. We want to help people make the right choices for them - choices that will help them get the right support in the right place at the right time.
CSCI chief inspector David Behan added:
'Our research shows that people looking for advice on social care will normally approach their local council first. The quality of help and information people get at that first point of contact often sets the mould for how successfully they then navigate their way through the system.
'While some councils provide excellent help and information, there is considerable variation in the quality and consistency of information that people receive.
'The information we are publishing today will give members of the public clear, consistent advice. There is space in the guide for councils to add their own details and other information, thereby giving the public a seriously useful tool to help them navigate their way towards choosing the right care service for their needs and being in control of their own lives.'
CSCI will also be contacting GPs, hospitals, nurses and citizens advice centres and voluntary organisations, to work with them in making sure the public get the best advice possible. Many voluntary organisations already produce information for the specific groups of people they help.
The booklet recognises the valuable work they do, and is designed to complement the work done by other organisations.
1. Copies of the new guide, Choosing the right social care service for you, can be obtained from the CSCI publications order line on 0870 240 7535. Copies of the guide can also be downloaded from the CSCI website at www.csci.org.uk
2. The guide was developed in collaboration with three local councils - Redbridge, Norfolk and Kent, a number of people who use social care services currently, the Association of Social Care Communicators and a number of CSCI staff.
3. An Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report titled Care Homes for Older People in the UK, published in May 2005, and the CSCI's own research carried out in March 2005, found widespread variation in the quality and consistency of information received by current and prospective users of social care services.
4. Many people complained that they did not receive enough information to make informed choices about the future direction of their lives. A selection of quotes from the research is provided below.
5. The booklet has been written as a signposting document to help people get the best support and advice to make informed choices of their own, rather than a comprehensive encyclopaedia on social care.
6. The commission consulted hundreds of different users via online surveys and face-to-face sessions to develop the new website. The people we consulted included older people, young adults with learning disabilities and prospective users of social care services.
7. The new website has been developed following best practice guidelines in accessibility and usability. Core information is available in easy-to-read formats, audio and foreign languages. The new site already has RNIB accreditation and the Internet Plain English Crystal Mark.
8. The guide has achieved a Plain English Crystal Mark for clarity and ease of reading. It will also be produced in a number of different languages, easy read, Braille and audio.
'If you haven't got a social worker, you have had it. There is no reliable source of information. I had to leave my previous home because they were modernising but because I didn't have a social worker I didn't get any help.'
'I had no help in finding somewhere, the help is just not there.'
'Old people don't know who to contact. They all give me different information.'
'I don't know where to go. It should be advertised with your pension in a booklet or something.'
'Well I just felt a bit alone you know they gave me like a list to go and look at of different homes and I found that really difficult. I'm a quiet person and find it difficult to question. Maybe some assistance, someone to be there, because it was an ordeal. It wasn't a relaxed situation where you could ask questions, I was sort of numb about the situation.'
'Well to start off we didn't know where to look and how to get names of care homes, that's why we contacted a social worker and he sent us a list of local care homes. We asked for the list of care homes, and it took two weeks to come. We needed the information straightaway. When we got the list of care homes, it didn't really tell us anything about them it was just we had to pick one.'
'Because it was difficult to get information the GP was not helpful. I don't know if it's to do with money because there is a threshold above which it is difficult to get social services. An information centre would be helpful. We have been through this many times recently with various relatives. I just retired recently and went to a retirement seminar. There was a social services guy who said all this information was available like at the Post Office etc. But you need someone to point it out to you. I heard a broadcast discussing this on the radio - when do you start looking for information. By the time you need it, you are usually too distressed to go looking.'
'Its not readily available, you have to hunt out what care is available.'
'I think that your first port of call would have to be the council, and then the social services. Other than that it would be a tour of looking for homes. It's not easy because they're not actually publicised very much are they? I think you should have more information leaflets at council offices for a start. And also I think they should send the leaflets out to people who they know are reaching a certain retirement age so that they would know of these places.'