Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive, Care England
The Coalition Government heralded the Care Act as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to clarify how we were going to fund social care, and a chance to give citizens clarity about what they would have to contribute.
One of the centrepieces of this legislation, was a commitment to capping care costs, and it was hoped that this would then enable the citizen to understand how they were going to plan for their future, but also give the insurance industry some clarity about the risks and costs inherent in insuring people’s long-term care. It was hoped that this would then lead to some insurers developing new products, and a much better engagement by both the insurance industry and the citizen.
Of course, by the time the concepts that were outlined by Andrew Dilnot had been through several Parliamentary processes, they were hardly recognisable from the vision, that either the Government claimed it wanted to develop, or indeed the proposals that Andrew Dilnot first put forward. Many of us supported the Care Act, not because we thought it was the best solution, but partly because we thought it was the only solution, and at best, it would deliver a degree of clarity.
Throughout the election campaign all parties focused their attention on the NHS, and there was little or no recognition of the important role of social care. It was, in effect, off the agenda. Partly this was due to the mistaken belief that the Care Act had solved the social care problem, and partly it was due to the ignorance, or dishonesty of politicians, who were neither prepared to debate, nor I suspect understood, the issues in social care.
The exception to this lack of knowledge, has to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who must have known that if he was reappointed, this was one area that he was going to cut back on. Throughout the election campaign, there was not a hint of the subsequent policy, and I suspect this was one of the reasons why, at every opportunity the focus of attention was always on the NHS, where politicians had made their commitments, and had no wriggle room to change the funding levels.
I find it both bizarre and inexplicable that at a time when integration is supposed to be the mantra of the moment, there is a total lack of understanding within Government, about the impact of social care cuts on the NHS. The Chancellor must be made to understand that if he cuts social care funding, you will see a consequent spike in NHS expenditure.
The level of understanding about social care is very poor, and not only should politicians get better informed, but they should also understand that social care delivers better outcomes for people who use services, and also delivers much more efficient and effective use of resources.
Chancellor Osborne, is making productivity gains one of the centrepieces of the Government’s agenda, but he seems absolutely incapable of understanding how much better the productivity, efficiency and outcomes are in social care. Instead of seeing social care as a Cinderella that he wants to ignore, he should be putting it at the very centre of the Government’s productivity and efficiency agenda.
One of the challenges that we often face in social care, is from politicians who tell us social care is not high-profile enough in their inbox, or nobody tells me that social care is important.
There are some tough things we need to tell politicians when they give us this humbug. Firstly, the politics should be about leadership and they should understand the importance of social care because it is the system that transforms the lives of the vulnerable. Vulnerable people often do not have the energy or capacity to educate politicians, but their need is still great.
I also want to ask those same politicians how many letters they got telling them that they should put enormous taxes on airline tickets, when we all fly away for our holidays. I would warrant next to nobody told them to do it, but it didn’t stop them. The myth these people try to create is that they always respond to our wants and wishes. Well, history tells us that they don’t.
As for the issue of social care not being a big talking point in the election campaign, my response is that it might have been, if politicians had had the honesty to tell us what they intended to do.
However long it is before the care cap is implemented, one thing is for sure, that the Government can no longer push the funding of social care into the long grass. We are now approaching a crisis, made worse by the announcement of the new living wage, which everyone supports, but cannot fund without extra money. If the government doesn’t act to put social care funding on a firm and realistic financial footing, the NHS will find itself unable to cope.
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