Conservative MPs have attacked a social care authority for issuing forms to elderly care home residents which include a question about their sexual orientation.
The Daily Express last week reported that thousands of the new “quality assurance” packs have been sent to every care home in England by the Commission for Social Care Inspection.
They ask residents to state their age, religion, disabilities and nationality – and whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.
The move has infuriated Tory politicians, who branded the questions an affront to the elderly and a waste of time.
An organisation that works for better services for older LGBT people told PinkNews.co.uk that the MPs have missed the point and are in denial that any old people could be gay.
Lindsay River, director of Polari, called the Express story biased.
“It used words like “demanding” to know a person’s sexual orientation, which is not the case.
“The Express approach fails to understand the issues here – in this case they have just used it to make political capital against sexual orientation monitoring.”
Conservaive health spokesman Mike Penning told the Express:
“I can’t see how this is going to contribute to anyone’s well-being. In fact, I can see that it will do the exact opposite.”
Tory MP Philip Davies wanted to know why the sexuality of care home residents was relevant.
“This is political correctness plumbing new depths,” he said.
“The Conservative MPs quoted in the Express have missed the point completely,” Ms River told PinkNews.co.uk
“They talk about the issue as if older people couldn’t possibly be gay, as if LGB people in their nineties are an impossibility.”
Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Association slammed the form’s “lack of sensitivity.
“I cannot think of one manager that would ask such questions,” she said.
“We just hope that the information is held in trust and is strictly confidential.”
Ms River conceded that the issue is complex, but said Polari support the principle of monitoring for sexual orientation as it enables care homes to help ensure their services meet the needs of LGB care home residents.
“We are aware some older LGB people would find such questions intrusive,” she told PinkNews.co.uk
“This sort of monitoring has to be done in the least intrusive way possible.
“What we really are concerned about is that some people may not, for access reasons such as dementia or visual impairment, be able to fill in the form themselves and may need assistance.
“There could be an issue if people are being asked these questions unexpectedly which could result in a loss of confidentiality.
“Ideally it should be advocates and not care home staff asking them the questions when they are helping someone fill in the forms.”
The quality assurance packs, sent to all 18,500 homes in England, who between them have more than 420,000 residents, come in three parts – for staff, for the family of residents and for residents themselves.
The first eight pages of all three packs are identical, asking 12 questions about the quality of service in the home.
Only the residents’ forms have the extra page containing the seven optional questions.
The Commission for Social Care Inspection, who produced the forms, told PinkNews.co.uk that they are anonymous and state clearly that residents do not have to answer the questions at the back if they do not want to.
A spokesperson said:
“As the regulator for care services in England, CSCI encounters people who experience discrimination, social exclusion and harassment because of their gender, age, sexual orientation, race, belief or disability.
“We have to check how well services are meeting their responsibilities under the equalities legislation to promote, and respond to, different aspects of diversity.
“To do this we need to gather information about people who use services and give them a chance to tell us, if they wish, about themselves and if they consider they have experienced any discrimination.
“This applies to people of all ages.
“The questionnaire for residents of care homes covers a wide range of issues and is one of the ways in which we gather information to use in our assessment of how homes are performing.
“The questions were designed in consultation with people who use services and with organisations that represent minority groups affected by equality laws.
“We include wording to make it clear that people do not have to answer the diversity questions if they do not want to.”
In guidance issued by CSCI to care home staff, they insist that staff themselves do not ask residents for information about their sexuality unless they already have it.
CSCI also said that they are conducting an online survey inviting LGB people to give feedback about their experiences in care homes.
They plan to use the information from this to produce a bulletin about making services accessible and appropriate.
Ms River added that care of LGB older people is a growing issue.
“There is not appropriate support and accommodation for older LGB people. Some do want to be in a home with other LGB people and at the moment there is no provision for that.
“There are not enough choices and options at the moment. The issue of homophobia and person-centred care for LGB people is a very pressing concern and is not being adequately addressed.”
For information and guidance about the forms click here.