|As a member of the Young Fabians Health Network, I recently took the lead on organising a roundtable policy discussion with Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, on the future of Social Care.
What consistently strikes me about the topic of Social Care reform is how, despite the fact that it will almost certainly effect each and every one of us, it is a subject so many seem keen to avoid. It has all the allure of paying your bills whilst contemplating your own mortality. Indeed, with the original spring 2012 deadline for the Social Care White Paper been and gone, it seems the care crisis is not at the top of the Coalition’s agenda.
It’s no surprise that we avoid dealing with such an expensive and emotionally-charged topic. In their current form, Dilnot’s suggestions are estimated to require £1.7 billion a year, and alternative models could cost even more. Moreover, if the thought of ageing wasn’t difficult enough, the sector was last year rocked by the appalling abuses at Winterbourne View and more recently by the on-going woes of the CQC. These occurrences threaten to ensure that negative connotations are the first thing that comes to mind when people contemplate the future care needs for themselves or their loved ones.
Nevertheless, the ‘care crisis’ is making the news and politicians in opposition are starting to engage aggressively with the lack of progress on the matter.
On the morning of the Fabians event, I awoke to find Social Care reform making the headlines. An open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by 85 charities, including Age UK, British Red Cross as well as Crossbench Peers, was splashed across the Daily Mail. The initiative had been organised by the Care and Support Alliance. Simultaneously, Labour’s Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, vented her frustration with delays to the Government’s White Paper on Social Care. Meanwhile, the press had been reporting that social care reform would not feature prominently in the Queen’s Speech (as it happened a draft bill did make the Queen’s Speech).
As I sat in the grand committee room in Westminster, observing the full rows of chairs, I was delighted to see dozens of individuals who were spending their Tuesday evening discussing the difficult topic of how our society will pay for long term care. Through emotional and personal stories, insightful criticism of the status quo and examples of successful ventures, the group covered everything from the divide that currently exists between social care, physical health and mental health to how to ensure that funding is made equitable.
As the Shadow Health Secretary suggested, I hope the electorate will reward the party that sits down, crunches the numbers, takes ownership of the costs and benefits and proposes a bold, effective solution that will enable us all to plan for the future.