Friday, 5 July 2019

Britain is a country where poor old men in dire need of social care can "Take Heart" that they have friends among rich old Lords in Government

Against a background in which a withering assessment by the 'Association of Directors of Adult Social Services' said in its annual survey that social care in England was adrift in a 'sea of inertia' caused by years of budget cuts and Brexit-related Whitehall policy paralysis and concluded that 'The system is not only failing financially, it is failing people.'

Earlier this year 'Age UK' estimated that more than 1.4 million older men and women aged 65 and over had unmet care needs. It said tightening eligibility for council-funded social care meant 627,000 people – nearly 900 a day – had been refused social care since March 2017.

Adass called for urgent cross-party agreement to tackle what it called the most pressing domestic issue of our time.  Its President, Julie Ogley said : “Our message from this survey to the new Prime Minister, whoever this may be, is very clear : make social care an immediate priority.” 

Now the 'Lords Economic Affairs Committee' said this would restore access and quality of social care services in England to pre-austerity levels and relieve unsustainable pressure on unpaid family carers. A further £7bn a year should be spent to extend NHS-style free personal care to all by 2025, to be paid for out of general taxation.

The Chair of the cross-party committee, the 64 year old Lord Forsyth, said it was time for government to stop “faffing around” and properly fund a system that was riddled with unfairness and left people enduring real suffering. “Our recommendations will cost money, but social care should be a public spending priority.” He said the fairest and most efficient way to meet the £15bn cost was through taxation : “I’m a Thatcherite Tory: I support reducing tax and controlling public expenditure. But this is the minimum requirement to provide a decent standard of care in our country.”

The Committee picked up on the 1.4m older people were denied the care they needed as a result of cuts, means tests and rationing, while others received extremely basic 'clean and feed' levels of care. Many as a result were housebound and unable to fulfil everyday tasks like washing or going to the toilet. Mindful of old men and women in the future, the fact that by 2040 a quarter of Britain's  population will be over 65 and there will be thousands more working age adults with severe disabilities, the Committee said that social care funding reform was an urgent priority.

The Committee questioned the point of publishing yet another report. The good, Lord Forsythe said : “Let’s not have a green paper. If you have to, have a white paper, and write a cheque to the local authorities. Let’s stop faffing around and get on and do it.

The Committee’s members include :  former Tory Chancellor, 77 year old Lord Lamont; former Treasury permanent secretary 75 year old Lord Burns and ex-cabinet secretary, 74 year old Lord Turnbull.

Old men and women in Scotland fare better than their English counterparts : Free personal care was introduced for over-65’s in Scotland in 2002, giving recipients help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, going to the toilet, and meal preparation. Numbers of people receiving care doubled as a result, but it ultimately saved taxpayers’ money by preventing costly hospital admissions.

Without urgent action to address social care funding, much of the burden of caring for vulnerable individuals would continue to fall on family and friends. Most unpaid carers were women, the report said, with 63% of female carers aged between 50 and 64 caring for at least 50 hours a week.

The good Lord Forsythe said : “Our recommendations will cost money, but social care should be a public spending priority. Fixing underfunding is not difficult.”

Needless to say, a Government Health and Social Care spokesperson said : “We have given local authorities access to up to £3.9bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410m is available for adults and children’s services. We will set out our plans to reform the social care system at the earliest opportunity to ensure it is sustainable for the future

The Committee’s report comes amid growing concern at the state of adult social care after a decade of austerity. The outgoing Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, the young Lord Porter, recently warned that vulnerable people would die as a result of the continuing failure to properly fund social care.

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