Magazine article The Spectator

Why We Need Ubercare

Magazine article The Spectator

Why We Need Ubercare

Article excerpt

Could an app help me look after my husband?

There is much to be faulted in Uber, which has branched out from delivering people into delivering meals, under the unappetising name UberEats. But even I, someone who can rarely bring herself to write the word 'sharing', as in economy, without inverted commas, am prepared to give credit where credit is due.

Uber has made private door-to-door transport accessible to far more people than before. It has thus done a lot of people a favour and hugely expanded the market, harnessing new technology to do so. It has provided jobs for people who did not have them, or who prefer to work in the semi-autonomous Uber way. It's made me, a diehard sceptic of the 'sharing' economy, wonder whether a form of Uberfication might not be just the thing to shake up our so-called 'care system' which, as I have recently discovered, is not fit for purpose.

Mary Dejevsky and John Sutherland discuss where social care is getting it wrong:

A while back, knowing that I would be going away for a week, I set out to find help for my husband, who has Parkinson's. Of course, this was not the first time we had faced the conundrum. But it had always been possible to muddle through. A combination of gap-year nephews, super-helpful neighbours and Meals on Wheels just about sufficed. (And a special shout-out here to Meals on Wheels, a service that finds itself suddenly, and inexplicably, under threat.)

Alas, though, the condition -- the disease -- progresses. And this time, something more was needed. In sometimes rough and ready ways, I look after my husband with no outside help, and I am happy to do so. I am generally with him, at home or away, for 50 weeks out of 52. If only -- and this was the question I asked -- there were some way I could be replaced for the remaining two.

The answer, after two months of research and requests that soon escalated into pleas, was no. Two weeks before my planned departure, I received an email from a pleasant person at my husband's GP surgery, who rejoices in the title 'care navigator'. Her title alone tells you most of what you need to know. 'It seems', she wrote, 'that we have exhausted all avenues... you wanted something in place for when you go away, but I don't think that will happen unless you organise care privately.' So there we are, two months on, right back where we started.

My two-pronged approach had begun with my husband's GP and the council's 'adult services' department -- which sounds a little like a porn channel, while being distinctly less keen (I imagine) to have you sign up. Have you tried, everyone I eventually spoke to asked hopefully, Parkinson's UK, your Parkinson's nurse, your GP, other voluntary organisations, Age UK?

And I could truthfully say, yes, I have tried them all. I have visited in person; my mobile phone log testifies to the cumulative hours spent on hold; to the messages left unanswered, to the universal reluctance to give full names and direct numbers or emails -- though they demand chapter and verse from me every time I call.

On the way, I have learned a whole new vocabulary, in which 'assessments', 'packages' and 'allocation' (or rather 'de-allocation' in our case) loom large, and everything, but everything, requires a 'referral'. …

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