Education And Debate

Care of Older People: Community care: the independent sector

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 21 September 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:740
  1. S Barodawala, registrar in medicine for the elderlya
  1. a St James's University Hospital, Leeds LS9 7TF

    The independent sector, which consists of the voluntary and private sectors, is a vital element in supporting older people in the community. The voluntary sector, coordinated by the Council for Voluntary Service and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, provides a variety of services, including practical help, reassurance and companionship, and advice, information, campaigning, and advocacy. The private sector owns all of the nursing homes and most of the residential homes and is gradually becoming more involved with the provision of services to help support older people in their own homes. With this increase in size and importance of the independent sector over recent years, there is now a real need for greater communication between the private, voluntary, and statutory agencies in any one region. In some areas, forums made up of representatives of these various sectors meet to discuss relevant issues and construct local policies, thus allowing a more coordinated approach to the delivery of services.

    Over the past 20 years the emphasis on supporting older people has shifted from institutional care to care in the community, which is provided in combination by the social services department, the voluntary and private sectors, and informal groups.

    Since the implementation of the Community Care Act in 1993, the needs of older people and their carers are now formally assessed; ideally, suitable services are then provided. These reforms have meant that voluntary and private organisations are now increasingly being asked to provide residential care, day care, and home based services under contract to social services departments.

    The voluntary sector

    The role of the voluntary sector in society is becoming ever more important. Voluntary organisations vary tremendously from large, national organisations with paid staff, to small, local charities providing advocacy, self help, and specific services to communities. Also, as needs and resources differ regionally, the services …

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