People who rely on social care can’t afford to keep waiting for reform
When the government finally brings forward its proposals for social care reform, they must to do more than prop up a failing system and tinker with funding.
Since the government dropped their last set of proposed social care reforms in 2016, they have postponed or delayed bringing forward reform ten times. The current target of ‘this year’ is the latest in a long line of promises which have been broken.
This approach, which sees social care reform as neither urgent nor particularly important to the government, is condemning millions of people to living without the support they need.
From 1.9 million older people not getting the support they need, to over 2,000 autistic people and people with learning disabilities trapped in inappropriate institutions because of a lack of community support, this has a very real impact.
This has been exacerbated during the pandemic, as shielding and social distancing mean that many people have become increasingly isolated. While care homes have undoubtedly borne the brunt of problems over the past year, we cannot assume they are the only part of the sector in crisis.
A cap on care costs will do nothing to address unmet need, or the poor pay of care staff
One in three users of social care is a working age adult but fewer than one in three people receiving publicly funded social care lives in a care home. The vast majority of care users are still living in their own homes in the community and they want support to live independently, not just help with washing and dressing.
The Prime Minister’s promise that he will ensure nobody has to sell their home to pay for care doesn’t go far enough. Catastrophic social care costs are an important part of the problem, but a cap on care costs will do nothing to address unmet need, or the poor pay of care staff.
It is concerning that the government does not yet seemed to have grasped this. Until they do, it is unlikely that any reform will deliver the change that is needed, rather than simply tinkering around the edges of a funding system which simply isn’t working.
Today, MPs will once again be debating social care reform. The government will undoubtedly keep promising that they do have a plan and they will reveal it soon.
After years of broken promises and missed deadlines, there is understandable scepticism that any plan will be forthcoming. But we cannot afford to drop the issue and let a crumbling social care system remain the status quo.
When provided well, social care can change people’s lives. Whether it’s supporting a working-age disabled adult to stay in the job they love or making the last years of someone’s life not just comfortable but enjoyable.
To make this a reality for everyone who needs support, we need to fund local authorities properly, so that they can afford to provide more than the bare minimum. We need to value our care staff, paying them a fair wage and giving them the training and career development they need to deliver high quality care.
We need a change in emphasis, so that care services consider people who use social care as a whole person, rather than breaking care down into a series of tasks to be completed. I know that this is the kind of care that staff want to deliver, and it is unquestionably the best option for people who use care.
When the government finally brings forward its proposals, it has the chance to do more than prop up a failing system or tinker around the edges of the funding system. Reform needs to be far reaching and ambitious, but above all it needs to happen, rather than being put off once again.
Barbara Keeley is the Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South.
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