Is it just me…?

Editor in Chief, Robert Chamberlain, reflects on how our broken care system is being left to decline.

Much has occurred in the world of social care during our summer break that does not spell good news for those needing care or those providing it.

I won’t labour the issue of the care funding reform U-turn, as Martin Green has written a strong piece on this topic on page 50, but I must say this whole shambolic exercise has been incredibly damaging. How on earth can a government state its acknowledgement of a broken system that is unstainable and unfair, spend £100 million to develop a solution and then shelve it for four years (if not abandon it!)? It beggars belief.

I’m no hypocrite and won’t pretend that I haven’t been an outspoken critic of the proposed reform based on diluted Dilnot recommendations. I hold that the ‘care cap’ is inadequate to address the funding considerations affecting our ageing population. It was, however, a move in the right direction. This U-turn sends a very clear message to the man on the street that the plight of older people in need of social care, though recognised by the Government, is not important enough an issue. They seem happy to turn their backs on the problem.

The Budget also took place with implications for our cash-strapped care operators such as the National Living Wage and the announcement of further cuts to social care budgets.

Concerns that may previously have been deemed as care providers bleating on about their profit margins are now being echoed in the strongest terms by those responsible for commissioning and quality standards.

United Front

Respective care associations have worked hard over many years to highlight the social care crisis with limited success in Government circles. However, this message is now being reinforced by influential organisations including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

As ADASS published its latest research, warning of the impact of the continued funding crisis, President Ray James, stated, ‘Short-changing social care is short-sighted and short-term. It must also be short-lived if we are going to avoid further damage to the lives of older and vulnerable people who often will have no-one else but social care to turn to.

‘What is at stake is the continuing capacity of adult social care to sustain services to those in greatest need. In virtually all our authorities, the number in need is growing, while the complexity of their needs is increasing.’ he added.

CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe warned of the impact of the funding crisis on care quality in an interview with The Observer (8th August 2015). She stated that much of the good work in social care was going on ‘despite the system’ and care staff feel ‘undervalued’ and ‘demoralised’. She called for the Government to act in recognition of the value of social care and its true costs.

‘The social care sector is certainly under stress and strain. And that is a combination of all sorts of factors – the increased numbers of people who need care and support, the increased complexity of their needs. But the other thing I would pick up on with the stresses and strain on the system, and the impact on quality, is the role of the commissioners and the funders.

‘There is an important responsibility in the role of those funding care – local authorities or clinical commissioning groups – to really understand what the true cost of care is, what true quality looks like and to make sure they are commissioning services that meet those standards and providers are given the appropriate funding to enable them to do that.’

Deaf ears?

Surely these stark warnings cannot go unheard by our politicians for much longer.

The missing piece of this jigsaw to lend weight is a public outcry. Let’s hope that will happen.

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