Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Nine Days That Killed Gloria Foster

IT might take a 21st. century J.B.Priestley to make up a story like that of Gloria Foster's last days and depict the issues of social responsibility. In Priestley's play "An Inspector Calls", a well-to-do Northern bourgeois family are at home, when an Inspector Goole calls to ask them about a young woman called Eva Smith who has died in hospital after drinking disinfectant. Which of them could be responsible in any way?

As we learn, one way or another they all are.

Momentarily relieved to be told there is no Inspector Goole, they then realise that the young woman has died, as their mysterious visitor said, and that they are facing real questions.

I first heard this play on the wireless, when I was still a kid, of maybe 12, and the title had led me to expect a crime thriller. It was sometime towards the end before I realised I had been listening to something else, and feeling very grown-up thinking about it.  .

Gloia Foster was not a young woman in a northern town, she was in her 80s, and this wasn't in a play but for real. She died on Monday in Epsom Hospital where she was admitted two weeks ago, having been found  at her home in Banstead, Surrey where she had been left without medication, food, or water for nine days.

Gloria was being taken care of  by staff from a private home care provider, Carefirst24 in Sutton, south London. But on January 15, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) raided the firm's headquarters in Upper Mulgrave Road, Sutton, as part of an investigation into suspected illegal workers and fraud.
Six people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to assist foreign nationals. They have been bailed until April.

So it seems the agency was closed for business. Well if they were committing fraud, then fair enough, except ...not for the first time, British authorities seem in far more of a hurry to nab people whose only "crime" is to be here, and working at a socially necessary job, than to pursue really nasty criminals. And nobody stopped to think what might happen to the people dependent on the carers. .

 If it was not for public services and local authorities being pressed to outsource services there would not be so many opportunities for profiteering and fraud. Carefirst24 provided care to elderly people across Surrey and the London Borough of Sutton on behalf of the two local authorities. But it seems Gloria Foster was not on the council's books because she was a private customer.
 Her MP, Conservative Crispin Blunt, has described her ordeal as "horrific"."I am very sorry to hear that Mrs Foster has now, sadly, passed away," he said."Clearly there are questions to answer and I would expect a comprehensive investigation between all of the agencies involved."I said last week that I would certainly not like to pre-judge any more of the narrative before it is formally established."

Surrey Police said it investigated the case after hospital staff caring for Mrs Foster raised concerns.
A spokeswoman for the county council said  "We are very sad to hear about Mrs Foster's death and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.The safety of vulnerable adults is our top priority, which is why this tragic event is already being urgently looked at by the Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board."

She did not know how long the investigation by the safeguarding board, set up to protect vulnerable adults, would take. As well as the county council, its members include Surrey Police, NHS Surrey, the 11 district and borough councils in Surrey and voluntary sector organisations such as Mencap, the Surrey Coalition of Service Users and Action for Carers.

Surrey Police said in a statement: "Officers from the Public Protection Investigation Unit carried out enquiries and it was deemed that the Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board would be the appropriate agency to investigate further."

 If only a real-lfe Inspector Goole could lead the investigation, and the responsibilities for Gloria Foster's suffering and death could be brought out from the institutions as surely as it was from the characters in J.B. Priestley's play, and dramatised on national television. As Priestley's spectral inspector tells the family, in a play set two years before the First World War and five years before the Russian Revolution, actions have consequances. "If men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish."


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