Straight Talk

Vicky McDermott argues why the sector needs a sustainable solution to the severe underfunding it has experienced.

Vicky McDermott, Chair, Care and Support Alliance

Even before I became Chair of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) earlier this year, the crisis facing the social care system had been at the top of the agenda. It is having a huge impact on disabled and older people, their carers and family members, and something simply has to be done.

Underfunding has seen dramatic year-on-year rationing of the support for older and disabled people and their carers, of which there are around seven million in the UK. The result; the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of people from the support they desperately need.

In response to the Government’s spending review in November, the CSA was proud to stand alongside the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Care Provider Alliance and the NHS Confederation in what was rightly described as an unprecedented show of shared concern.

One of our key messages was that we were together fighting for simple and fundamental rights – rights that you and I take for granted. Without social care, many people would be lonely and isolated. It is an essential life support system that people rely on for everyday tasks like washing, dressing and eating. Without realistic funding of social care, the dignity, health and wellbeing of disabled and older people is being compromised. This has to stop.

To anyone who thinks there is already adequate funding in place, I would inform them that one in three people have had experience in the care system. One in three adults over 65 need help with at least one activity of simple daily living. And almost one in 10 adults say their day-to-day activities are limited owing to old age, a long-term health problem or disability.

And this problem isn’t going away. It is simply going to get worse, with figures suggesting the number of people over 85 in the UK is expected to increase by more than 50% to 1.9 million over the next decade. But these figures are not matched by funding, with the amount spent on social care falling every year since 2008.

More than a million older people who have difficulty getting out of bed, washing, or dressing get no formal help. Two in five disabled people are failing to have their basic needs met. These facts, this situation, is shocking.

I don’t believe in simply criticising without giving any solutions. So how can things change and the lives of disabled and older people be substantially improved? Quite simply, it comes down to investment.

Now, I know we can look at so many aspects of today’s society where people will argue that throwing more money at it will solve the problems. I know there isn’t enough money to go around. But investment in improving social care is not only the right thing to do for some of the most vulnerable in society, it also makes economic sense as it will help ease the challenges faced by the NHS and other public services.

A week doesn’t go by without more headlines screaming about problems within our beloved NHS. As we all know, it is creaking and struggling to cope with a population that is living longer with more and more complex needs.

We must all look at ways of keeping people out of hospital. Likewise, almost nine out of 10 GPs attribute the pressures faced in their surgeries to a reduction in social care. More investment is crucial.

I am very proud to lead the CSA, an organisation which represents more than 75 of Britain’s leading charities campaigning alongside the millions of older people, disabled people and their carers who deserve decent care.

We believe the Government was right to delay the introduction of a care cap earlier this year, it was the right decision at the current time. To introduce a cap without doing anything to address the underfunding of social care would have been a recipe for disaster. Only once the funding crisis has been addressed can we start thinking about introducing a cap.

On behalf of the CSA, my message to George Osborne is a very simple one as he prepares to unveil the Government’s Spending Review on Wednesday 25th November. Please take leadership on this issue and use the Spending Review to address this crisis.

This is a great opportunity to announce a sustainable solution to this severe underfunding in social care. Please show that our country truly values our disabled and older people and will do everything in its power to end this growing unmet need and give them the care and support they deserve.

If you don’t act now, these problems are only going to get worse.

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