Downgrading the Care Minister's Role is Bad News for Social Care

04/08/2016 10:23 | Updated 04 August 2016

It's safe to say the recent political climate in the UK has been a little on the turbulent side and that our new Prime Minister has some considerable challenges ahead.

Following the decision for Brexit, essential governmental changes had to be made and a Cabinet reshuffle was necessary. However, unfortunately for the social care sector, this has seen the responsibilities of the Minister for Care in the Department of Health being downgraded to the remit of a Parliamentary Under-secretary.

This downgrade has come at a critical time. As we live longer and have more complex needs in later life, pressures on our care services are inevitably growing. It is therefore vital that social care remains high on the political agenda and doesn't get side-lined.

One in three women and one in four men will need care at some point in their life - a staggering figure that the country is not equipped for. According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), to maintain care at the same level as last year would require more than an extra £1.1bn of public money.

And the demand for care is only going to increase. With a rising population and longer life expectancy, the number of people over 65 is set to rise by more than 40% in the next 17 years. This demographic change is of course welcome; it signals improving living conditions and advances in medicine. And this growing sector also creates opportunities, especially in the creation of new jobs and the building of new services. But if the funding of services is not reviewed in line with these new demands, we are heading towards an age of increased polarisation, suffering and loneliness for older people.

As someone working in social care, I feel that managing this kind of major challenge demands the attention and influence of a Minister of State, with the power and influence in government to make real change.

And as Simon Stephens, CEO of NHS England, has acknowledged, effective social care is key to ensuring that the NHS delivers the required outcomes and within budget.

I hope my disappointment is unfounded and the downgrading of the role does not mean social care funding has been relegated to the 'on hold' list.

Theresa May and David Mowat, the Parliamentary Under-secretary responsible for care, have the chance to turn social care around and help those in need of care to lead the best lives possible; I hope it's a challenge they address as the lack of adequate social care funding is an issue which cannot be ignored any longer.

Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive of Anchor, England's largest not-for-profit provider of care and housing for older people