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Social workers ‘lie’ to get care for elderly, the dangers of third-hand smoke and female genital mutilation helpline set up

A round-up of the health news headlines on Monday 24 June.

In the headlines today is the launch of a national helpline to protect girls from female genital mutilation. The Guardian reports that the NSPCC has set up the helpline after research showed more than 1,700 victims of FGM were referred to specialist clinics in the past two years, the youngest of whom was just seven years old. The NSPCC says the true figure is likely to be much higher because there are no data for women and children who go to hospital, while there is a tendency for communities to stop people going to authorities for help and to hush up those who speak out against it.

Lisa Harker, head of strategy at the NSPCC, said: ‘This is why we believe a dedicated helpline with specially trained child protection advisors is needed to help overcome the difficulties in protecting children from such a complex and secretive form of abuse.’

Meanwhile The Telegraph reports that social workers are resorting to lying on official forms to get care for elderly people.  A study by Age UK and the College of Social Work showed that at least one in four specialists who carry out formal assessments of people’s needs admitted to exaggerating how frail people are in order to get around stricter criteria for access to care. Yet a similar proportion reported feeling pressure from managers to falsify assessments by down-playing elderly people’s needs.

Figures have shown that the total number of older people receiving social care in England has dropped by almost a fifth in the past four years, despite a big increase in the number of people at retirement age, as spending on social care has been slashed.

Bernard Walker, chair of The College of Social Work Adults Faculty, said: ‘Social workers are doing as much as they can to secure essential care and support services necessary to enable older people to live with dignity and in comfort in their own homes and communities.

‘But they are alerting us to many incidents where even the very basic levels of care are either no longer available to many people or are being withdrawn altogether.

‘As well as causing unnecessary suffering to many frail and lonely older people this situation is causing their care needs to escalate more quickly, increasing the burden on higher cost care services provided by the NHS.’

And the Daily Mail today reports on how the dangers of so-called ‘third-hand’ smoke are now coming under scrutiny. Third-hand smoke describes the residual particles from smoked tobacco that linger once second-hand smoke has dissipated, sticking to the surfaces of carpets, fabrics and furniture. People can be exposed to it through inhalation, ingestion and skin contact. Researchers used laboratory experiments to show that even the lower concentrations of toxins in third-hand smoke are enough to cause DNA damage.

Co-author of the study Lara Gundel said: ‘Some of the chemical compounds in third-hand smoke are among the most potent carcinogens there are. 

‘They stay on surfaces and when those surfaces are clothing or carpets, the danger to children is especially serious.’

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