Blog written by Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister for Care
If you ask anyone who works in care about the greatest challenges facing the sector today, many will point to our growing ageing population and ask, how we will continue to care for them?
The reality is that we are all living longer – around 15,000 centenarians currently live in the UK, and by 2050, we expect over 56,000 people to reach this milestone. This is having a profound impact on us as individuals, collectively, and inevitably on our health and social care system. As a society, we need to think about not just ageing, but ageing well and how we can live independently for as long as possible.
Across Government we are already working on the Ageing Society Grand Challenge to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of the technological revolution around ageing. This is supported by a £98 million ‘healthy ageing programme’ which will drive the development of new products and services to help people to live in their homes for longer, tackle loneliness, and increase independence and wellbeing.
But quite rightly a priority concern for millions of the most vulnerable people in society who need care is how they live day to day. 2018 has already shown itself to be a decisive year for the sector with the creation of my role as a dedicated Minister of State for Care, alongside the creation of the renamed Department of Health and Social Care. This reflects a recognition within central Government of how important it is to find a sustainable and effective solution for social care.
I know all too well the realities of the system – not only from meeting thought leaders, hearing first-hand experiences of those using the system and working for it, but on a personal level too. My grandmother had dementia and I saw how heavily she relied on my mum who became her main carer. My uncle too has the condition and is fortunate to be cared for in an excellent care home by kind and knowledgeable staff.
Yet this isn’t the case for all and we must do much better on social care. It’s been a long and difficult path and given the mounting pressures facing the health and care system – doing nothing is not an option.
The upcoming green paper will set out reforms so that people of all ages – including some of the most vulnerable in society – can be confident in the system, knowing that their care needs will be met now and in the future. The reforms seek to address the main challenges and responsibilities facing the sector – including quality, integration, more individual control – for example through Personal Health Budgets, workforce, supporting families and carers, and ensuring a sustainable social care system.
As part of this, a burning issue is the cost of social care. It is only right that, where possible, we should contribute to our care costs in later life. We have a lot of work to do to build greater awareness among the public of how the current system works, and ensure that people appreciate the need to plan for their future care needs.
This will be complemented by the recently announced NHS 10-year long-term plan. Health and social care are two sides of the same coin and any reforms must be aligned – that’s why the green paper will be published in the autumn alongside the plan. Both will ensure we can cope with the pressures of a growing ageing population and ensure everyone had access to the highest quality health and social care.
This is not an issue Government can tackle alone – I look forward to discussing these issues more and hearing views from the sector at Age UK’s For Later Life conference this September where I will be the keynote speaker.