Tag Archives: general election

Social care needs to be a priority for new government

Since the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition took power earlier in the week and started outlining its policies, one issue seems to have been conspicuous by its absence: social care.

As I have previously blogged, in the general election campaign social care seemed to disappear off the political radar, despite it being touted as a key issue in the run-up to it being called. Now post-election, it continues to be ignored in children’s and adults services; nowhere in the policy outline was social care mentioned.

Indeed, Michael Gove, the new head of the (swiftly renamed) Department for Education, has said in a letter to civil servants that education is the priority for the department, thus seemingly sidelining children’s services, although he added that this area will be strengthened and reformed, but didn’t elaborate on how.

Also, Andrew Lansley, the new health secretary, has spoken extensively of the plans for the NHS, while adult social care has garnered barely a mention.

This lack of attention is worrying; ask anyone within adult social care and they will say that reform – especially of the way it is funded – is urgently needed. Children’s services also need to be strengthened and supported. They can’t be left to drift as they have done for the past few years.

Leading social care organisations are also worried. Counsel & Care, a charity working with older people, their families and carers, have called for reform of social care to be made a priority by the new government.

Meanwhile, Carers UK’s director of policy and public affairs, Emily Holzhausen said; “We are deeply disappointed that the programme for Government published in the coalition agreement this week does not establish social care as a political priority.

“Clear plans must be brought forward as a matter of urgency, setting out a sustainable funding model for fair, universal, and transparent care services.”

However, despite the worries, I’m trying not to be too negative. It is still very early days for the government and we shouldn’t be too quick to judge – social care is a complicated issue and it may take more time to put together a policy.

Also, Paul Burstow, a Lib Dem MP with a history of championing issues such as social care funding, dementia and adult protection, has been appointed as a minister for state – the rung below cabinet – in the Department of Health. Having someone with in-depth knowledge of and a passion for the issues involved could ensure that they get the attention they need.

But until the government makes any policy announcements, as with everyone else blogging on this in the sector, everything is speculation and educated guesswork.

A final thought; in among all the speculation, there is one decision on social care that will have to be made soon – whether to pass Labour’s Personal Care at Home Bill. The Tories are against it, as are the Lib Dems, who would prefer to use the money for this to give carers extra short breaks, so I think we know what the result will be there.

Do you agree? Please let me know your thoughts below.

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Filed under adult social care, children's social work, social care, Social care funding

Uncertainty in social care after election result

So, 3 days on since the election result was announced and we still don’t know who will form the next government. As a result, from a social care perspective, we still don’t know where the future direction of policy will go either.

So, nothing has changed there, then. It’s been like this for months as green papers and white papers have come and gone, with little changing on the ground.

The only certainty, in terms of policy, came with Labour and its plans for a National Care Service, as laid out in April’s White Paper. But many in the sector doubted it would ever make it to fruition, given their standings in the polls.

Indeed, at the time of writing, a Conservative-Liberal coalition is looking possible, which would mean the end of Labour’s ideas; the Conservatives did not sign up to it, and the Liberals rejected several elements of it.  

Their ideas for reforming social care have not been laid out in as much detail as Labour’s, so many are left wondering what will happen.

My hope is that if there is a coalition – be it Conservative-Liberal, Liberal-Labour or some other variation – it will give a chance for a consensus to emerge over future policy direction. If that happens then if there is another election in the near future, there is a chance that the policy might be consistent. But that’s a hope.

More realistically, my guess is that another commission will be formed to review social care and make recommendations from that – although what could be said differently to the results of last year’s Big Care Debate is unclear. The Liberals said they would do this in their manifesto, although the Conservatives are said to be against that as well.

So, as I write, it seems like the only things that are certain are: the social care industry will continue to do its best with the limited resources it has and a funding system that nobody likes – like it has done for years; and that nothing will change that situation in the immediate future.

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ADASS sets out social care challenges

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.

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What happened to social care in election debate?

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.

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General election: let battle commence on social care

Finally, one of the worst-kept secrets in the country is officially announced; the general election will be on May 6.

It has been said by many that adult social care will be one of the crucial points on which the election is fought. If so, this can only be a good thing, but only if the public know exactly what they will be voting for and currently, they don’t.

We know Labour’s plans for the future of adult social care; they were in last week’s White Paper. They have outlined plans for a National Care Service, along the lines of the NHS. How it would be paid for is still unclear – but don’t let practical details get in the way of a good policy.

But as for the other main 2 parties – and, in the interests of balance, all the minority parties as well – we know that they don’t think much of Labour’s ideas, but other than that, we know very little about their plans.

The Conservatives have been plugging away with its £8,000 voluntary insurance scheme for paying for elderly care. However, those in the know in the sector don’t believe that this will come up with enough to cover the costs. The Tories disagree. Other than that, we know they favour telecare and a national system of assessment and eligibility for care, and that’s about it.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats want to find cross-party consensus on the way forward in social care, as was being discussed in secret by health ministers earlier this year before Andrew Landsley blew the lid on the meetings. They also want yet another commission to investigate possible ways forward, and have said they would spend £420 million to give carer’s an extra week’s respite – as long as they care for more than 50 hours per week.

I haven’t heard much from any of the minority parties on social care – if anybody knows more, please leave a comment below.

But all this shows that we do not have a full debate on social care – that can only be achieved when others announce their policies and can be analysed objectively against the others.

That is the challenge now for the Conservatives and Liberals – show us your plans and let us decide which way forward is the best for social care.

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