This post follows my tweet earlier this month regarding the case of Ms McDonald. After having her case heard in the Supreme Court on 6th July 2011, Ms McDonald lost her battle against Kensington and Chelsea Council to provide overnight care. Earlier this month, John Wadham, Group Director, Legal, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
'We are disappointed with [the] ruling which is a significant setback for people who receive care in their home. Ms McDonald is not incontinent, however this judgment means she will be treated as such...Local authorities will now have greater discretion in deciding how to meet a person's home care needs and will find it easier to justify withdrawing care. This means that older people's human rights to privacy, autonomy and dignity will often be put at serious risk.
Indeed, I agree that it is crucial to ensure that basic human rights to privacy, autonomy and dignity are protected, particularly with respect to elderly and vulnerable groups. It is totally unacceptable for anyone to have to, as Ms McDonald puts it, 'lie in urine for hours' when they are continent and could easily be assisted to use a commode. Age UK are correct in pointing out the "extremely adverse and devastating consequences for many thousands of older people if other councils take similar decisions to save money". (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/06/care-battle-ballerina-supreme-court)
However, (to play the devil's advocate for a moment), given the governmental resource constraints is it reasonable to expect a local authority to provide overnight care for all who need it in their catchment area? Could or should alternative arrangements be made?? (We are all aware of the care homes crisis!) How do/should local authorities balance the needs of individuals with the broader needs of society as a whole? These are difficult questions. I would like to hear your thoughts...