Protecting Our Parents: Shining a light on a huge issue

By on 14/04/2015 in Blog

Alan Lotinga

Birmingham City Council’s Service Director for Health and Wellbeing, Alan Lotinga, reflects on deserved recognition for TV Documentary series Protecting Our Parents.

As someone who has worked in social care for over 25 years, my job is never dull or predictable. But this is the first time I’ve ever blogged about a BAFTA nomination.

That’s exactly what I’m doing today though after Protecting Our Parents – a series my colleagues contributed to – was deservedly nominated for one of British TV’s top accolades.

If you missed it, Protecting Our Parents (screened last May) followed Birmingham’s older adults care teams over the course of a year, looking at the issue from the perspective of the professionals, families and the elderly.

Over the course of a groundbreaking three-part series, the production team shone a light on this most sensitive of topics in a truthful, non-sensational way.

It really was excellently done and I’m proud of Birmingham City Council’s involvement in a TV documentary series which accurately portrayed a situation where health and social care systems, designed for a different era, are attempting to support people in the face of rapidly growing demands.

As the first programme explained, there are now more pensioners than children living in Britain today. Just pause for a moment to take that stunning statistic in.

Protecting Our ParentsWe’re living longer – there will be 20 million pensioners in the next 20 years – and that inevitably has consequences for our society, for health services and of course for social services.

We need a discussion about what that means; a discussion involving everyone from Government and local authorities to carers, health professionals and individuals.

Now in recent years we’ve seen increased coverage of what happens when the system gets it wrong. Quite rightly the media will focus on scandals and it’s important that any wrongdoings are highlighted and the culprits are brought to book. This coverage is important – we all have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

But – and there is a but – there is a danger that these ‘horror stories’ paint an unrealistic picture of a system struggling to cope with ever growing demand. Thankfully, these extreme cases are exceptions.

In the main, the reality is what we saw in Protecting Our Parents. A challenging situation where everyone involved is trying to do what’s best for vulnerable older people.

So, in episode one for example, we met 83-year-old Betty who was in a temporary care home placement as she recovered from a fall. Fiercely independent, Betty was desperate to return home but wouldn’t agree to her house being cleared to remove trip hazards. It was impossible not to sympathise with her plight – this was the home she had lived in for decades – but the social worker was keen to reduce the risk of another serious fall.

You could sympathise with everyone involved and it was impossible not to admire Betty’s no-nonsense attitude. There are countless Bettys across Birmingham and indeed throughout the country.  It’s our duty to protect and care for them but we must also respect their independence and right to dignity.

Protecting Our Parents reflected that brilliantly.

The programme did not set out to offer solutions but merely to outline the challenge facing our rapidly ageing society.

Personally I think the production team did just that and I hope to see them collect the BAFTA on 10 May.


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