We’re just 3 days into the New Year, and if anyone needed reminding about the importance of 2012 for the UK’s Social Care landscape, they won’t have done after two important news articles this morning. The first was the letter to the Daily Telegraph from over 60 luminaries within the Social Care Field warning the Prime Minister that urgent and lasting reform was needed within the sector otherwise older people would continue to lose their dignity and independence. All signatories also urged the government to seek cross-party consensus on the issue of Social Care reform and to accept the rump of Andrew Dilnot’s recommendations into reforming the sector.
With Paul Burstow promising such talks later this month in advance of April’s White Paper, and stating that an additional £7.2Bn had been earmarked for the sector across the life of the parliament, one might think that welcome momentum was building on such a crucial issue. Indeed it is, but there was a telling exchange of views on this morning’s Today programme, which served to highlight how this issue might still become politicised.
John Redwood felt that the Dilnot report was too concerned with protecting people’s inheritances, whilst the real issue was how to ensure the best possible care for people who needed it. Lord Warner made the point that the only way to improve the quality in this way was to enlarge the social care pot, whilst Richard Humphries of the Kings Fund highlighted the increased strains on the NHS with a malfunctioning Social Care system. All are right of course and there is no doubt that these points will be oft repeated in the run up to the White Paper in 3 short months. So what needs to be done? Here is our agenda for change.
1. There needs to be sufficient money in the system to deliver a fighting chance of good care. Witness local councils having to re-think their social care funding because what they are allocating at present is insufficient to deliver acceptable care.
2. The Government needs to lead and co-ordinate the disparate parties involved in Social Care. This includes bringing the financial services industry into the mix to achieve a better spread of funding options.
3. Raise awareness of Social Care funding, much as was done with pension provision. The need for Social Care will happen to all of us at some point in our life and is not an issue that will go away.
4. Increase the transparency of the regulatory framework involved with Social Care and decrease the red tape. Name and shame organisations that deliver poor care and a competitive marketplace will do the rest. The CQC is currently not up to the task of achieving this.
5. Health and Social Care need to be considered together, whatever the preferred solution, as one directly influences the other. For example, bed blocking costs the NHS £500K a day.
So whichever way you look at it, 2012 is make or break for the reform of the Social Care industry.