Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care by Madeleine Bunting; No Fixed Abode: Life and Death Among the UK’s Forgotten Homeless by Maeve McClenaghan - review by Joan Smith

Joan Smith

Home Truths

Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care


Granta Books 320pp £20

No Fixed Abode: Life and Death Among the UK’s Forgotten Homeless


Picador 384pp £20

Towards the end of 2013, I became very worried about the care my mother was receiving in a residential home in the northeast of England. Before I could do anything about moving her, she was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I was still digesting this shock when the hospital sent her back to the home, which shortly afterwards failed an inspection by the Care Quality Commission. This sequence of events finally persuaded council officials to listen to my anxieties and set up a safeguarding inquiry. At the very first meeting, I discovered that the most basic things, such as drawing up a care plan, hadn’t been done when my mother was admitted to the home with dementia six months earlier. It was harrowing – and too late to help my mother, who died four days later. The coroner notified the police, who spent more than a year investigating events leading up to her death. The coroner eventually concluded that she died of natural causes, but the NHS and local government ombudsmen upheld most of my complaints about the way my mother and my family had been treated.

There is nothing unusual about any of this, I’m afraid, but it means I have personal experience of the subject of Madeleine Bunting’s book. I also know that the crisis of care in this country extends far beyond the treatment of the elderly. The frustration of being passed from one

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RLF - March