On Wednesday 5 December, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, will be giving his Autumn Statement to Parliament. After the Budget, it is one of the most important events in the Chancellor’s calendar. He will be explaining the current economic situation facing the country and will detail some of the Government’s plans for the future.
This is the perfect opportunity for the Chancellor to show that the Government is serious about tackling the crisis in social care. Back in July, we saw the White Paper, Caring for our future, which set out a range of proposals to radically reform the social care system. These included a minimum eligibility threshold, more rights for carers and reinforced by media reports , a commitment to the principle of capping the cost of care, to name just a few.
Should these proposals be implemented, they have the potential to make a huge difference to older people who rely on social care to live with dignity. However, the Government have yet to explain how they plan to fund these proposals, risking the whole process being kicked into the long grass.
We may be in austere times but the prospect of doing nothing is more expensive than ever. There is already a £500m gap in funding in order to maintain the current broken system, and this figure is set to increase. Last year, an estimated £5.3billion was lost from the economy as a result of lost earnings from people forced to give up work to care for loved ones. This includes almost £1billion in foregone taxes. Furthermore, there are knock-on effects on the NHS, putting extra strain on the health service.
But we must not forget the tremendous personal cost that comes as a result of the crisis in care: the cost of worrying how to manage with increases in the charges levied by local authorities for care ; the cost of dealing with short 15 minute slots of carers coming into the home, leaving basic tasks forgotten; or the cost of having to give up all you have saved for, including your home, to pay for the care you need.
We have to make sure the Chancellor realises this and uses his Autumn Statement to help solve the care crisis. You could do this now by sending him an email through the Age UK website. The more people who do, the more the Government will realise that care simply can’t wait.
It will only take five minutes to do. Who knows, it could be the most important five minutes you spend today.