On the day before the election, and with social care still conspicuous by its absence in the political debate – possibly because none of the 3 main parties wants to touch this controversial subject with a bargepole – it has been left to ADASS to bring the subject back up.
In a 12-page document catchily titled ‘All you need to know about adult social care’, ADASS sets out where social care is and where it needs to go in the coming years. It makes for interesting reading.
On the plus side, ADASS reveals that standards are have improved every year since 2002. In 2009 there were no councils assessed as ‘poor’ (for the sixth year running) and 95% were rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Quality of care has also improved, with three quarters of services assessed as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in 2009.
So, in social care terms, we’ve never had it so good. Progress has been made and things are getting better. Good.
But this only tells part of the story – and the rest isn’t so rosy. For instance, it reveals that public spending on social care has increased by 53% in real terms since 1997. Taken on its own, that’s not too bad. But, when compared to the increase in spending other areas have had, such as the NHS (nearly 100% increase), education (60%) and transport (70%), it shows how much of a priority adult social care has been since Labour came to power.
ADASS also outlines the challenges facing the sector, such as how the number of people of people with dementia in the UK – about 700,000 currently – is set to double in the next 30 years. The report also reminds us that 75% of councils only provide services to people with ‘substantial’ needs at least – with the number of older people using services is falling at a time when the older population is rising.
The report concludes with the key issues that need to be addressed: reform of social care funding is “desperately” needed; the need for greater integration between health and social care; how social care should be more joined up with other services, such as housing and education; and securing a skilled, motivated and adequately remunerated workforce.
None of those will come as a surprise and how these issues will be addressed should have been a question put to politicians in recent weeks. As mentioned before, they haven’t, and it is those in social care – workforce and service users – who are set to lose out because of this.
For many people with disabilities, social care is a top priority and many feel ignored by the election debates, according to a survey by ComRes. With some 1.8 million service users out there – and the election so finely balanced – have the politicians missed a crucial trick by ignoring them? Possibly, but we’ll never know.