Helen Martin: Prisoners must not get special treatment

Prisoners with dementia should not receive a higher standard of care than the general public. Picture: PA
Prisoners with dementia should not receive a higher standard of care than the general public. Picture: PA
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wE know dementia numbers are rising year by year in Scotland and that regardless of lifestyle, previous medical conditions or even age, anyone could fall victim.

Of the 90,000 suffering today, over 3000 are under 65. And though genetic markers may predict the likelihood of the condition, we still have no magic wand to prevent it.

Walking home with the weekly shop could be a heavy burden. Picture: Toby Williams

Walking home with the weekly shop could be a heavy burden. Picture: Toby Williams

So it’s no surprise that dementia is also rising among prisoners in Scottish jails. There are now around 150 male inmates over the age of 65. And no, it’s not that more grandpas are resorting to crime to augment their pensions, but that detection technology is improving, allowing police now to identify those responsible for historical sexual offences, murder and other crimes that carry long sentences.

Former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said the Scottish Prison Service should be considering supportive facilities, not least because prison officers are not trained to deal with the needs of elderly prisoners, particularly those with dementia.

And a report by the prison service concluded that it would have to work in “extensive partnership” with the NHS and councils, also suggesting the need for separate accommodation and services specifically targeted at older prisoners and those with health and disability needs.

Well, that all makes sense. Or rather it would if it didn’t amount to putting the needs of prisoners who have committed sexual or violent crime before those of innocent elderly people who have to sell their houses and assets to pay for care packages and care home fees . . . both of which the Care Inspectorate has reported are in short supply, leaving some patients unsupported for months.

Even with the government and council support available in Scotland, my mother, who was resident in a special, secure, dementia care home for seven years before she passed away, paid £2700 a month for her little, single room with no en suite, plus extras such as hairdressing, spectacles, toiletries, clothes etc, all funded from savings and the proceeds of her house.

Those with no assets apart from their pensions are publicly funded, but as the Inspectorate confirmed, finding a place is not easy, sometimes impossible.

It would be ludicrous to suggest that elderly prisoners with dementia and mobility needs should just have to tough it out in an ‘ordinary’ jail – of course they shouldn’t. But nor is it right that because of the prison service’s duty of care, prisoners with dementia would enjoy guaranteed places in custom-made care facilities on the public purse as part of their criminal sentence while elderly citizens on the outside are left high and dry.

Dementia and elderly care is a massive, urgent, vital and growing challenge.

What’s needed is not a plan for new residential facilities specifically for prisoners, but a whole re-think by the government for all elderly people who need support and residential care for frailty or dementia in secure care homes from which they cannot wander off or ‘escape’.

Prisoners with dementia (a tiny proportion of those affected) shouldn’t receive a lower standard of care than the public. Nor should they be entitled to the higher standard of a superior, gold-plated set up with no fees, no waiting lists and no chance of being left to cope alone.

Under orders to get fit and healthy

THE Scottish Government thinks it is being progressive, innovative and creative with its varied schemes to tell us what and how much we should eat and drink, impose state guardians on our kids and stuff us full of risky, chemical sweeteners. The list keeps growing.

What it doesn’t seem to understand is that it is coming across as a dictatorial regime.

The latest proposition from Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, is that everyone should leave their car and walk to work or the shops on Wednesdays.

That follows ministers saying that by 2030, everyone should walk all journeys up to two miles and cycle on journeys up to five miles.

If the supermarket’s less than two miles away a mule or donkey and cart will become a necessity for the weekly shop! Micro control of the population is what we expect from a despot, not an elected government. Why don’t they just cut to the chase and announce we should all be strung like puppets to do what we’re told?

Has Theresa given up on Scotland?

STILL floating for voting, I’ve made a point of watching the political broadcast of each party.

One interesting aspect of Theresa May’s UK Conservative PPB was that of all the alleged “members of the public” voicing their support on film, there was not a single Scot.

No, I’m not moaning about being left out. But surely, as she is determined to preserve “the precious Union”, she shouldn’t be ignoring and neglecting the one country that could potentially break away, and apparently focusing only on England.

Leaving concerns about, or support from, Scotland to Ruth Davidson is hardly the act of a PM looking for widespread victory across the board. . . unless she has (rather astonishingly for her) come to accept that indeed, Scotland is a separate country.

Keep taking the tablets?

SCOTLAND is top in Europe for daily screen (phones, tablets, PCs) use by 11- to 15-year-old girls, and according to the World Health Organisation, that is a factor in teenage obesity. Interesting to speculate on what the Government might do about that one.