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Government’s priority must be to fix Britain’s broken social care system


Social care network for older people

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Government’s priority must be to fix Britain’s broken social care system” was written by George McNamara, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 12th May 2015 08.11 UTC

Picture the scene: coffee cups strewn across the table, exhausted faces flushed with relief and voices hoarse from weeks of frenetic campaigning. As the new government maps out its priorities for the Queen’s speech, the topic of debate moves from education to health to defence. But there’s one issue struggling to get onto the table: fixing a broken social care system for an ageing population.

Why should it be on the table? Well, go back a few months; it’s January and a number of big hospitals are declaring major incidents. A&E departments are swamped with emergency admissions. It’s thought as many as two thirds of these patients are over 65.

The pressures on hospitals were unprecedented, and experts pointed to cuts to social care as the cause of the crisis. With almost 23 million people in the UK aged over 50, more than a third of the population, it is a crisis which is set to worsen in the future. You cannot save the NHS without investing in social care.

When our public services fail to support older people properly in the community hospitals pick up the pieces. The public spending decisions that need to be made will determine how well people are looked after in their later years far beyond the next parliament. That doesn’t just affect the millions of older people, but their families as well. Almost no-one will be untouched by this.

Yet, as the level of need increases, government has been doing less to help. Research carried out by the London School of Economics has shown that around half a million older and disabled people who would have received care in 2009 are no longer entitled to it, while the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimate a £4.3bn black hole in social care services by the end of the decade.

A week doesn’t pass without the Alzheimer’s Society hearing from people struggling to access good quality support locally. In addition to this human toll, our broken system has a staggering economic cost. Dementia costs the UK in excess of £26bn a year (equating to £30,000 per person with dementia every year).

Yet social care became “the ghost at the feast” of the election campaign. Neither Labour or the Conservatives made significant social care funding commitments.

The Conservative party can form a government but its majority is slender. It will have to rely not just on the full support of its own backbenchers, but on the wider backing of the electorate outside Westminster. Now is the time for the government to show its compassionate, caring side.

Inaction and a lack of investment in social care will pass the buck to people with dementia, their families and carers who shoulder two-thirds of dementia’s financial burden through care fees and unpaid care. By the end of the next parliament nearly one million people will be living with dementia. There is no room for complacency.

Most regular users of the social care system are over 65 and rely on it for day-to-day support. Jenetta, who lives with frontal lobe dementia, has had more than 20 different care workers in the past three months. They are often poorly paid and without any specific dementia training; she is at the mercy of a care service with no time to care.

Pearl is wife and carer to John, who was diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2012. Pearl says she’s “gone beyond exhaustion” providing 24/7 care to John who needs help to wash, eat and go to the toilet. The signs of strain are visible. The impact of this failing system isn’t just felt by those who use it, but also the millions of unpaid carers who have to pick up the pieces when the support that’s needed isn’t provided by the state.

The government must initiate a national conversation to seek society’s views on how we fund and deliver health and social care. We are calling for a national action plan that will bring about real benefits for people with dementia. This should include support offered to all those with a diagnosis and the end of perfunctory, slapdash homecare visits. In this parliament we must tackle causes rather than symptoms, stop throwing money at A&E departments in winter and give social care the attention it needs.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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About Carl William Brown

I'm Carl William Brown a holistic teacher, a webmaster, a trader, and a writer of aphorisms and essays. I have written more than 9,000 original quotations and at present I'm also working at my only novel, Fort Attack, which is also a wide and open blog project. At the moment I'm teaching English in a secondary school, but up to now I have done a lot of other things as well, both in business, educational, sport and social fields. Some years ago, in 1997 following the examples of the Rotary or the Lyons Clubs I founded the Daimon Club Organization to promote every sort of activities, creativity, art, literature, new technologies, informatics, business and marketing, public health and education and to meet new friends with these kind of interests.
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