Who would care for my Mum? Or for yours?

Imagine that one day your Mum is at home enjoying her retirement. She has always been highly independent, fit and well. Until the day she has a stroke.

After a short stay in hospital she comes home. But life is different now. It’s much harder for her to do everyday things. She struggles getting in and out of the bath and even using the shower is a challenge. There are times when reaching the toilet is too much. You have to face the fact that she cannot manage on her own any more.

-2934You do the most sensible thing. You get in touch with Mum’s local social services. You explain the difficulties she is now having. They assess her needs. You hope this leads to some carers coming in to give Mum a hand with those things she is finding too much, like getting to the toilet, washing and preparing simple meals.

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Government announces care costs cap

This blog was contributed by Caroline Abrahams, Director of External Affairs, for Age UK. 

Last year’s White Paper and draft Bill make these encouraging times for social care, for decades a Cinderella service. What has been so obviously lacking though is the funding for a better system, so today’s announcement about the implementation of ‘Dilnot’ is a welcome step forward.

Unfortunately, implementation has to wait until April 2017, so very few older people living in a care home now will benefit, but at least some of those who come after them will: the Government estimates that 1 in 6 older people who need care will gain, but by just how much and over what timescale is hard to tell without detailed modelling which the Government has not (yet) released.

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Worth waiting for? The Draft Care and Support Bill

As the Law Commission first began work on its review of adult social care in 2008 it seems reasonable to describe the new draft Care and Support Bill, based on the Law Commission’s recommendations, as ‘long awaited’.  So has it been worth waiting for?

Throughout its work the Commission was adamant that it did not intend to reduce the rights of older and disabled people who need care and support.  That the Law Commission has largely achieved its aim does in itself deserve praise, not to mention a sigh of relief that essential rights have not been swept away.

The Law Commission’s recommendations were never intended to be revolutionary. The aim of the exercise was primarily to consolidate existing legislation. This meant both bringing together successive acts of Parliament and proposing a new structure for regulations and guidance issued under the new act. Guidance will also be pulled together into a single code of practice, a huge improvement on the current mass of guidance, good practice guidelines, and guidelines produced by third parties.

There are, however, some dramatic and welcome new proposals in the draft bill;

  • A general duty to promote the wellbeing of service users will become the underlying principle used as a basis for interpreting the rest of the legislation;
  • People who do not meet eligibility criteria will still have rights to advice and information;
  • Carers will, for the first time, have the same rights to services following assessment as care service users;
  • There will be a new national framework for eligibility for care and support (the White Paper also promises a new minimum threshold for eligibility by 2015 although this is not in the draft Bill)
  • There will be improved transition arrangements for service users who move from one local authority to another;
  • Legislation to safeguard adults at risk of abuse.

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Care Can’t Wait

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.

Watch a video of David Gower explaining why he is supporting Age UK’s Care in Crisis campaign

Find out more about our campaign