After 3 weeks out of the country – I was one of those caught up in the volcanic ash crisis – I’m getting back up to speed with what’s been happening in social care and where the main parties stand on it before the election.
There was precious little mention of social care or older people in last night’s TV debate – well, the bit I watched before jet-lag caught up with me – but I haven’t seen much else about it in the news. I’m told there was not much talk about it while I was away either.
Considering that social care was supposed to be one of the main debating points in this election, everyone seems to have gone quiet on it since Labour announced its White Paper on the future of social care and plans for a National Care Service.
But while we know about Labour’s plans, you have to look hard to find the Conservative and Liberal Democrat policies on older people – social care as a category isn’t there, disappointingly.
More disappointing is the lack of concrete policies. For instance, the Conservatives pledge to introduce a ‘home protection scheme’ to ensure people don’t have to sell their homes to pay for care, but don’t say how it would work, or how it would be funded.
They do however advocate the extension of direct payments and individual budgets to give people more choice and control over their care. While this is a continuation of an existing policy, it does hint that if the Tories win, they may not make fundamental changes to the personalisation agenda.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems say they would undertake a review of social care. It’s difficult not to be sarcastic about that pledge – hasn’t the sector had enough of those in recent years?
More promisingly, they talk about re-establishing the link between the basic state pension and earnings.
There has also been little mention of the future of social work, although there are fears among some social workers that cuts to frontline services may be made; there have been assurances that teachers, doctors and nurses will not be axed, but no such declarations made for social work.
So, the future of social care, one of the bigger issues facing the UK, has once again been swept under the carpet. In a way it is not surprising, because there are no easy answers or snappy soundbites and some of the solutions may not be vote-winners. But it should have been a key part of the debate because this will affect everyone in the UK at some point.