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A zero-sum game? If only..(gift suggestion)

19 December 2016: “A zero sum game” is the expression used by the Head of Public Sector at Grant Thornton UK plc in a valuable letter to the press this week, on how the savage funding cuts to adult social care affect the cost of acute health services.

Echoing a point already familiar to readers of this site (see “stupid and self-defeating”: Social care funding hopes dashed, 23 November 2016), he said:

imageFrom a taxpayer’s perspective this is a zero-sum game. For every £1 not invested in social care, the cost to the NHS is considerably more.” [Mr Paul Dossett, Guardian letters 19 December 2016]

We should probably leave Mr Dossett’s accounting colleagues to tease him about how that sum can work out to zero, but the truth of course is worse than he describes.

Students of decision theory call this not a zero – but a negative-sum game: one where between them the players are bound to lose more than any of them can ever win, and their collective losses will grow and grow the longer the game goes on.

Who would be so stupid as to carry on such a game? Us, it seems.

As the main part of the letter makes clear, the recently announced changes to council tax look like an inadequate temporary fix, with little chance of aiding those in greatest need in our most deprived areas: it may only add a postcode lottery to their problems. For the UK to continue its long tradition of providing care to those who need it most,

imageimage…the government must invest in a robust social care system that can cater for all based on needs and not geography.

That is an approach the R&RA has always supported, and long called for.

We believe that even after a year of such divisions as 2016, the overwhelming majority in the UK can agree that proper care for those who need it is now an urgent national priority. So the only question left is how to ensure the investment needed, not whether.  And the answer to that must be a pragmatic and non-partisan one if it is to succeed.

an adult re-think of adult social care funding

In wishing our members, users and many friends a very happy Christmas and New Year, the R&RA would like to wish them something extra: an adult re-think of our adult social care system.  How can it be strengthened and more securely funded, so adequate care can be based on need and not chance?  That would be a gift of real value for our older people, present and future.


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