Saturday 1 December 2012

Independent living with rats


I have been asked by someone familiar with this lady's circumstances to point out that she takes great pride in keeping her home immaculate. The rat infestation was therefore especially shocking and traumatic for her.


The Ombudsman for Public Services may be wondering whether he is being taken at all seriously by his favourite local authority, Carmarthenshire County Council.

Every time the Ombudsman delivers a report criticising the council, he eventually gets a very grudging acceptance along with an assurance that measures have been put in place to ensure that this or that outrage will not happen again.

Earlier this year the chief executive was noticeably very annoyed to be criticised in the case of Mr M, a disabled man living in council-owned accommodation who had been trying for several years to get the council to adapt his home and make it suitable for a wheelchair. The principal requirement was for a ramp to enable him to get in and out of the house.

This week the South Wales Guardian reports on two cases of rat infestation in Ammanford, the stomping ground of council leader Kevin Madge who makes a very big deal of his commitment to providing decent council housing.

In one case a 94 year-old lady was living on her own and nearly blind and discovered to her horror that rats were taking the food off her plate. Although she is living in a council-owned home, the local authority repeatedly refused to send anyone out to tackle the problem, and eventually she had to pay £240 out of her own pocket to call in a pest controller.

As Cneifiwr's own parents found out last year, some private pest controllers can be even worse than the pests themselves when they rip off elderly and vulnerable people.

This is the sort of thing you might expect of the very worst kind of private landlord.

Apart from the council's much-publicised commitment to improving its housing stock and building new bungalows, it is also very keen to encourage independent living as it seeks to limit the cost of residential care.

As some councillors have pointed out, independent living is great provided the elderly are actively helped to stay in their own homes and lead a reasonable quality of life, but all too often old people can find that their homes become lonely prisons.

We do not know the particular circumstances of this lady, but the chances are that she will have some sort of involvement with social services, the NHS, Meals on Wheels, etc. Why did none of these agencies act to ensure that things were sorted out earlier?

As we know from the newspaper report, this was not an isolated case either. What it suggests is systematic failure by the council to look after this old lady, and things could have ended up much, much worse.

A couple of months ago the council produced a huge, glossy annual report trumpeting its alleged successes in all sorts of fields, including care of the elderly. What's the likelihood that Mr M and the old lady in Ammanford will get a mention in next year's report?

Any attempts by councillors to raise the alarm about such appalling cases are invariably silenced and dismissed as "ward matters", but the truth is, as we can see from the South Wales Guardian report, that negative publicity is the only thing which makes the council sit up.

Of course, none of this excuses the rest of us. One day we will all be grateful to receive visits from neighbours checking to see that we are OK.


Welsh not British said...

My cat brings in creatures from time to time and the size of rats is quite astounding. From nose to bum they can be 6+ inches long, and a kilo or so in weight.

This is yet another open goal for Plaid, let's hope they nail Labour for it.

Anonymous said...

Weil's disease is very serious indeed, and it's quite amazing this elerly lady has not caught it.
What would the repercussions be for our wonderful council if she had, as it can be fatal!.