Giving Residents the Right to Vote
Residents in residential care homes have the same human rights as people in the wider community, but this can often be forgotten when it comes to enabling them to take part in the democratic process. Politicians can sometimes appear to ignore the views of people in residential care, but they actually make up an important group with something to say, so supporting residents to take part in the general election is something that care providers and social care staff should take seriously.
Why Care Providers Should Help Residents to Become Involved
The profile of social care in the media tends to focus on the negative issues such as funding problems, bed-blocking by older people and other bad news stories, so presenting social care in a more positive light can inform people about the real situation. Residential and nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to criticism, and even local authorities prefer to promote the cheaper option of providing care at home. However, the truth is that many people enjoy a better quality of life in residential care than they can in their own home and can enjoy independence and choice whilst being supported by care staff in the home. Living in a community can mean that they do not face the same kind of isolation that many older people in their own homes experience. It is important that everyone in residential care has the opportunity to vote and the same access to information as the wider public.
How Can Care Providers Help Their Residents to Become Involved?
Social care is not high on the agenda of most politicians during the general election, and Brexit seems to be the main issue for the candidates and the media. However, older people make up a large percentage of the voting public and also usually have plenty of time, so encouraging all the local candidates to visit a care home to meet and address the residents is an excellent idea. If care providers are able to invite the media to this event as well, it can demonstrate that the older people living in the care home remain an important part of society, have their own opinions and their votes are important. Candidates will have to answer some questions about social care, which will also raise the profile of the options faced by older people.
Some residential care homes in West Sussex have nominated “voting champions”, whose role is to help older people to register to vote and to organise events such as debates and hustings in the home. They also help residents to go to the polling station to vote, arrange transport if necessary or help those residents who want a postal vote to arrange this. Deciding who they want to vote for can renew an older person’s sense of their own individuality and show that their choices are important. When residents are supported to vote, there is often a higher turnout, and local people will see that they are an important part of the community.