6 December 2021:
It was July 2019 when the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised, in his maiden speech, “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”. Now, 28 months later, the plan has been published and sadly it is no fix. Whilst there are lots of nice words (100+ pages of them!), it lacks substance, urgency, vision, fairness, will do little to improve standards and offers mere crumbs to a system in crisis.
The care system is broken and unsustainable. Our helpline hears from people frustrated by the unnecessary complexity of the system. We needed a bold vision to create a system built around the needs of people, to focus on the good quality care and support every older person has a right to expect. Instead the Government’s plan continues to tinker around the edges, trying to provide a cheap fix which just won’t solve the problems.
Every day on our helpline we hear concerns from families about the inherent lack of fairness in the way the care system operates. People are often baffled to discover that someone with dementia is expected to pay for their own care whereas someone with cancer receives their care free via the NHS. Rather than resolving the unfairness, the Government’s plans will actually make things worse for some people. The ‘cap’ on care costs will help families living in higher house price areas to keep hold of a larger share of the value of their home.
Reform is not just about money, but investment is urgently and desperately needed to ensure safe, high quality care and build a sustainable professional workforce. The system has been comprehensively starved of resources and investment by governments of all colours. There were crumbs of support offered, falling far short of the £7-10 billion needed to maintain current standards of care. For example, £5 million was pledged over three years to pilot providing personalised advice to help people navigate the system. Whilst this support is much needed, it amounts to a mere £3.80 each for the 1.3 million social care clients last year alone.
The elephant in the room is the catastrophic state of the care system, which the regulator said was ‘at tipping point’ even before the pandemic started. After 21 long months, staff are burnt out and services are stretched to breaking point. The impact on people needing care and their families is devastating. The number of people waiting for assessments or to get access to care continues to rise, putting pressure on families to fill the gaps. Our helpline hears about care services only able to provide the basics and of degrading levels of care. There is nothing in the Government’s plans to deal with the crisis playing out in care, which is putting older people’s rights at risk.
The Government’s plans are hopefully titled ‘People at the Heart of Care’. Nice words, but there is no substance in the plans on how power will be transferred to people receiving care and their families. Every day on our helpline we support people too afraid to raise issues and use their legal rights for fear of reprisals due to the inequalities built into the current system. This should have been the opportunity to redress the power imbalance and ensure people’s rights are protected. There is very little in the Government’s plans that will help set older people’s minds at ease when contemplating a move into care.
R&RA will be pushing for these changes. We are ready and willing to work the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure a new care system is fair, simple, sustainable, with the rights of care users at its heart.