Last week, Age UK presented Number 10 Downing Street with a petition signed by over 130,000 people calling on the Government to end the crisis in social care. The size of the petition means it is likely that Parliament will be required to debate this important issue, bringing the needs of older people who are being let down by the care system to the forefront of all MP’s minds.
David Gower, who shared his personal experiences of social care in support of Age UK’s Care in Crisis campaign, attended Number 10 Downing Street to present the petition. He said ‘We need reform because we need to be able to help those who are unable to help themselves and there are many members of the United Kingdom’s citizens in this unfortunate situation. We do not and cannot afford to have a crisis where people at the moment are brought home from hospital, dumped in their flats and told to get on with it. It’s time to change right now.’
The next month is set to be critically important for all our futures, whatever our age. Having been beset by delay upon delay, the Government has indicated that it will finally publish the Social Care White Paper either this Summer. A Draft Bill will be published hard on its heels before the end of this parliamentary session in July.
Legislation and reform is urgently needed. Social care provision is now at breaking point as chronic under-funding, a conflicting and confusing legal framework, and an ageing population have created a crisis in social care, betraying some of the most vulnerable people in society today.
But this historic opportunity to provide root and branch reform and funding for social care comes at a time of austerity measures, and serious economic uncertainty.
Ministers have indicated that the White Paper and Draft Bill will mainly deal with reforming and simplifying social care legislation, which will go some way to ending the iniquitous postcode lottery of care provision experienced by thousands of older people across England.
But it is the issue of how to fund social care that remains the most critical, and most divisive. Cross party talks have been underway since January 2012. Ministers and their civil servants will have engaged in long, hard discussions with the Treasury on the future direction of funding.
It’s not clear at this moment in time, whether consensus has been reached, either within Government departments or across the political parties. The Government has said that it will publish a funding progress report at the same time as the White Paper. Age UK is hoping that the progress report will contain a positive response to the Dilnot Comisssion’s recommendations for a maximum £50,000 cap on the cost of an individual’s care, which will protect older people from the sometimes catastrophic costs.
Funding and reform of social care is one of the key challenges for this Parliament, and indeed this generation of politicians.
Even set against the austerity measures, there are positive choices the Government can make. Funding and reform of the current social care system will help older people stay healthy and independent for longer and reduce the pressures on the National Health Service.
At this critical moment, Age UK is therefore urging the Government to use the White Paper, the Funding Progress Report and Draft Social Care Bill, as the foundation stones of a sustainable, and fair social care system. After 25 years of political prevarication, resulting in trauma and loss for hundreds of thousands of people, it is now time to resolve the crisis in care, and guarantee dignity for each and every one of us.