The Personal Care at Home Bill isn’t everything we might want for social care but it’s a step in the right direction. However, it’s in danger of being blown out of the water in the current, rather febrile, political atmosphere. Clearly it would be preferable to have a genuine system-wide approach to social care reform. But before political argument puts social care into the ‘too difficult category’, how about recognising that the current Bill needs support and now.
Recently WRVS asked older people want they want to ensure they can live well. Their four priorities were for us to change attitudes to old age, the reform of the social care system, joined up services for older people and a recognition that older people want to be able to help each other and themselves. All political parties claim to support these aspirations but in the current climate it’s proving difficult to get fundamental reform. The Government is getting stick for the proposal to merge attendance allowance with funding for the proposed National Care Service. The Conservatives have pledged not to abolish AA, but have not come up with any system-wide proposal on social care reform. The Lib Dems recently dropped their reform proposals. It’s all getting too hard to do.
So – let’s at least get something on the books. Together with a number of other charities, we are supporting the Bill because the people we represent believe that charges, particularly for personal care, are unfair and iniquitous. There has been a steady increase in charging for services since the community care reforms in 1993 and there is evidence that charging for services deters people from accessing the support they need.
We are supporting the Bill – but that support is conditional. We want a commitment to a larger vision for social care and some assurances on this first step:
end the need for older people to answer the same questions over and over again through multiple assessments by integrating the various existing systems of assessment
the definition of personal care needs to be carefully drawn so that people with dementia, who need to be prompted about personal care tasks, are equally included
assessments should not unfairly discriminate against people who have carers
any funding given for free personal care must be consistent with the Government’s commitment to ensuring personal budgets and direct payments give maximum choice and control to families.
It is vital that the Government publishes the Social Care White Paper as soon as possible. We need an ambitious plan for social care and a system that is well-funded, fair and sustainable, and that must be the challenge for whoever is in power after the election. Older people and their families are struggling every day in a system that is over-complex, iniquitous and under-funded. Although we welcome the Personal Care at Home Bill, we need this longer term vision to be published as soon as possible.