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Making Care Fair - Six Things The New Government Should Do

14/06/2017 17:05 BST | Updated 14/06/2017 17:05 BST

It's been a noisy few months since Theresa May called the snap election back in March, with a huge focus on health and social care.

Our new government is no doubt going to be busy. To lend a helping hand, here are some tips on the wisest moves our government can make to protect our health and social care sectors.

1. Turn rhetoric into action

It's been positive to see social care reform and funding so high on the election manifesto agenda; but we can't let it stop there. This government must now turn words into action, and get a plan in place, knowing that public pressure and scrutiny will be maintained.

2. Set the cap and make it fair

Andrew Dilnot made some strong recommendations on how to reform social care; the Government must listen to these, first up by introducing a social care cap which will keep costs down for everyone and avoid seeing older people forced to sell their homes. Care must be equally accessible for all. There must be no 'dementia tax'; there needs to be a long-term and sustainable system for funding all elements of social care, including dementia care.

3. Value social care

Health and social care go hand in hand. The NHS is Britain's most revered entity and it is what the public jump to protect. At the moment, neither the government nor the public prioritise social care in the same way. This perception must change. The health and social care sectors are co-dependant; if we improve one, we ease the strain on the other.

4. Focus on our ageing population

The debacle over the 'dementia tax' is indicative of the need to give our increasingly ageing population the attention it deserves. The government cannot pull social care policies from thin air; we need a new strategy that addresses the demands created by the dramatic demographic change we have seen in recent years. We should celebrate that a British baby born today can expect to live to 104, but we can only do so if we are confident that our population will be looked after in older age.

And it's not just social care that needs considering here. Our ageing population brings a range of challenges; from financial concerns around pensions, benefits and poverty, to mental health issues due to loneliness and social isolation, and discrimination, such as ageism in the workplace and the high street.

5. Consider suitable housing

The government must make it easier for older people to make the move into suitable housing. There are two main points to focus on here: first, the new government must encourage a focus on building retirement properties, and second, they must support those already living in sheltered housing.

This would benefit people of all ages as 'right-sizing' frees up properties for the younger generation and, with older people living in safer environments, they are less likely to encounter falls, which increase demand on an already stretched NHS. A report by the Strategic Society, commissioned by Anchor, found that retirement housing could save the public purse £14.5billion over the next 50 years.

To ensure specialist housing is able to meet older people's needs, the government must omit sheltered housing from the proposed caps on the Local Housing Allowance. A joint inquiry by two select committees has already come to the conclusion that the controversial plans to use the LHA to cap benefits for sheltered housing tenants should be scrapped. It's positive that Theresa May's new Chief of Staff is Gavin Barwell, the former Housing Minister who was keen to hear recommendations from the sector on the issue of LHA and supported housing. Now the government must take note of this expert advice, and act accordingly.

6. Make someone responsible

In a country where there are more people over the age of 65 than there are aged 16 and under, it's clear that we need one specific person representing older people's rights and the impact of demographic change in government. A Minister for Older People would be able to address the complexities of our ageing population holistically and with focus. Governing a country isn't easy, but it could be easier if these issues were to be drawn together and put under the responsibility of one influential Minister at Cabinet level.