Friday, 5 October 2012

Britain is no country for gay old men in need of care

An item on the BBC Radio 4 'PM' programme yesterday, focused on the discrimination faced by gay and lesbian old people receiving 'care' in their own homes and in care homes. It made the following points, that :
* 'Stonewall' and 'Age UK' say that there is a serious problem for many old man and women and one old man said : "When I arrived at my new care home the manager said I should put away pictures of my deceased partner because he said people would not like it that I was gay."
* Caroline Abraham at 'Age UK' said she was concerned about the effect of homophobic bullying and " Hurtful remarks for somebody who's openly gay and lesbian may have been a big deal because attitudes have changed. It may even force them to go back into the closet, to tell lies about who they are, to deny the people who are closest to them and that's a really sad thing to happen to you at a very vulnerable time in your life".
* it is estimated that around 700,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people are above state pension age in Britain, although it is not clear how many either receive care or are in homes.
* a YouGov poll, where more than a thousand were questioned, suggested that about half were not comfortable with discussing their sexuality to either carers or care staff and more than 70% said they were convinced that they will not be treated with dignity and respect in a care home setting.
* a researcher for Age UK said : " I heard comments that gay people should be put into jail, that it's abnormal, sinful and the worry is if those attitudes turn into action."

* Sally Knocker, has spent two decades working with old people and now trains care workers to be more aware of the issues surrounding gay residents, said that one possible explanation might be the care sector's dependence on cheap foreign labour and "  what we have found that staff who are coming from more traditional backgrounds in Eastern Europe with very strong religious backgrounds or from the African Subcontinent where there are real taboos about gay and lesbian sexuality. In some countries it's obviously seen as a crime punishable by death sentence."

* there are 1,400 care homes in Britain, the majority are privately run and the Care Quality Commission regulates those in England is responsible for making sure they are properly run but has no figures showing how many complaints had been about 'homophobic abuse'.

* it is an offence to discriminate against someone on grounds of their sexual orientation and those who work in the field say that old people are reluctant to  complain because they are worried about the ramifications.

*  Stacey Hall, 'Equality Officer' at Age UK, Camden, said that " we have found from our research that there is huge level of fear about coming forward when they have been a victim of discrimination and are in an incredibly vulnerable position having to rely on these people for, often, quite intricate levels of care and what they are dealing with is very high levels of discimination at the hands of  people who are employed to provide their care."

* the Government's  answer is a proposed 'code of conduct' for care workers to bolster existing rules, but campaigners say that something must be done urgently to eliminate prejudice or these old people could spend the last days of their lives in misery.

What a sad country Britain has become for gay men, once young and happy, who have become old and unhappy at the hands of those who provide their 'care'.

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