A woman says her sister was let down by the social care system after they forced her to live in a “filthy, foul hovel” – with rats, rotting food and mouldy clothes.
Beryl Barker, 74, was left horrified after she checked up on the home of her 76-year-old sister Tricia Crowther to find her home a ‘smelly hell hole’ – while she was under social care.
The property was filled with rats, dog food, over 20 bags of rubbish dumped in the bath and spare room.
Beryl, after researching her sister’s care records, found social workers would have much rather “taken her to the pub” – than to get the proper care she required.
Alzheimers-suffering Tricia, who is now a patient at a specialist hospital, lived alone and her sibling Beryl presumed she was in good hands.
But when Bradford City Council’s social care department stopped answering questions – Beryl checked out the house in Shipley, West Yorks., to uncover the truth.
Retired Nurse Beryl said: “I hadn’t seen her for a few months because I’d been very ill – but what I saw made me feel sick.
“I’d trusted the council and agency workers it employed to look after her but it was the biggest mistake of my life.”
The eerie discovery came after a neighbour phoned Beryl to say her widowed sister had been taken to hospital.
Naturally, Beryl became concerned when Tricia’s social worker refused to tell her anything over the phone.
She began to worry because her own ill health kept her from seeing her sister in months.
Speaking about the horror after asking a neighbour for a spare key to the mortgaged property, Beryl said: “My sister was house proud once, but I was shocked.
“It had a foul smell, damp musty clothing was scattered around with rubbish, old dog food, dead flowers. It was cluttered like a hovel.
“Tricia had been sleeping in the front room surrounded by the filth – the kitchen floor was full of rubbish bags and so was the bath, the sink was full of dirty washing up and the cooker was filled with household items – it was a fire risk.
“Everywhere looked like a tip, rats had been urinating – rooms needed fumigating and the dog she loved was missing.”
Beryl claims that the social services department didn’t think Tricia had family so sought approval from the Court of Protection to ultimately take control of her life.
Mrs Barker, who took photos of her sister’s home and has complained to Social Services and care agency Creative Support, collected copies of care records filled in by her carers.
It catalogues Mrs Crowther’s fire not working, having to hide the microwave to stop her misusing it, the cooker being disconnected, the toaster not working and that she often refused medication or to get washed.
It also said not to call the police if she did not return home at night as long as someone had seen her that morning.
She said: “It’s obvious Tricia’s situation was dire and carers were fully aware of it yet their best solution was to take her to the pub every day.
“When I eventually saw her in hospital she did not look like my sister – she’d lost weight, her nails were dirty and she’d been neglected.
“I’ve no doubt that fall saved her life otherwise she’d have been left to fade away in her own filth.”
Mrs Barker added: “We’ve had no apology from the Council, only a letter asking me to find a new home for her dog.
“I decided to speak out because other vulnerable people might be out there like Tricia whose families rely and trust Social Services without question.”
Calling on the council to review its cases, Mark Rounding, chief executive of Age UK Bradford & District, said: “It is truly shocking to see the pictures of Tricia’s home and the environment she was left to live in.
“No person, let alone someone vulnerable like Tricia with dementia, should be left by any service provider, voluntary or statutory, to live in these conditions.
“People must receive the holistic care and support which they both need and deserve to live their lives safely and with dignity.”
Paul Smithson, services manager for Alzheimer’s Society in Bradford, said: “This is a tragic case – and sadly not unusual.
“Care scandals in hospitals and care homes have been well-publicised, yet unacceptable homecare practices are widespread and happen behind closed doors, hidden from public scrutiny.”
Shipley MP Philip Davies said the standards of social care in Bradford were “unacceptable” and more funding was needed.
Bradford City Council’s Lib Dem leader Jeanette Sunderland stated there were no excuses to leave Tricia in her home in those conditions.
She said: “If someone is not capable of making a decision for themselves – there has to be a point when carers step in.
“We would not allow an animal to live in those conditions – I’m really sorry that Social Services set the barrier so high but it does point up increasing concerns about the way we are rationing support for older and vulnerable people.
“We are keeping people in their homes when clearly they are needed to be cared for elsewhere.
“The decision was taken to keep her under care but it was probably cheaper to keep her under care at home – there’s no excuses at all for that lady to have been left like that.”
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