On April 4, a Channel Four Dispatches documentary revealed alarming failures in the provision of care for elderly people.
Hidden cameras and an undercover reporter produced evidence of private care providers charging councils for visits by carers to people’s homes that were shorter than stated in their logs, or did not take place.
This would have come as no surprise to Ron Coggins, because of his experience as a volunteer for a well-known charity.
In 2002, Ron, then aged 76, retired from running his own business in Hunstanton and offered his services on a purely voluntary basis, advising the elderly on the best way to handle their finances under a special scheme fot a charity.
In April 2004, Ron was introduced to a 97-year-old who lived in Burnham Market.
According to Ron this lady was virtually chair-bound. When he was introduced to her she said: “I hope you have not come to take advantage of me!” It was not long before Ron had reason to conclude that perhaps others had done.
Ron realised his client had not been asked to sign any of the weekly log sheets showing the time and duration of visits by carers, who were employed by a private care compant.
In March 2005, Ron got his client to sign a statement saying: “My helper Mr Coggins informs me that I am being mistakenly charged for an evening call by my carers.”
It went on to say: “I have told him I do not have any calls after my teatime call, approximately 4 to 5pm. With my morning and lunchtime calls makes 3 calls daily which I hope I only have to pay for.
“Mr Coggins has my authority to look at and copy the daily time sheets that my carers fill in at each call, this should prove my statement. He also tells me he will look into this mistake and get it corrected for me.
“My condition prevents me from writing this letter, but Mr Coggins has read it out to me and I willingly sign it for him.”
Armed with this statement, Ron carried out his own investigation based on the log sheets available to him, but instead of his ‘whistle-blowing’ actions being applauded, Ron alleges that Norfolk County Council and the charity involved were not even prepared to accept the fact that he was merely performing his role as the woman’s unpaid financial advisor.
When the old lady died, before Ron had managed to obtain further back-dated evidence, the main beneficiaries of her will appear to have been animal charities.
Whilst not admitting to the serious implications of overcharging for calls, to the public purse as well as to individuals, Ron was assured that a sum of money, equivalent to the amount charged for calls that had not taken place, would be donated to the relevant charities.
But the offer was dependent on Ron agreeing to a gagging order, he says.
This he says he refused to sign, so although he will celebrate his 90th birthday on April 16, Ron says he is still waiting for an apology from those in authority who he would argue seem to be rather more interested in covering up wrongdoing than making amends.