THE BLOG

Beyond Party Conferences to the Spending Review

07/10/2015 16:41 BST | Updated 07/10/2016 10:12 BST

The annual party gatherings are over; clear lines have emerged between the main parties; and now all eyes will revert to Parliament as the stage for the next bout of jousting. Debates will range from tax credits to trade union rights to immigration.

But the big event this autumn will be the government's - and critically George Osborne's - spending review. The review will set the parameters for the rest of this Parliament to the next general election.

Already many vested interests have made their pitch for more funding over the next four years. These pitches have included 'invest to save' arguments and cost-benefit analyses.

But will they get much of a hearing from the Chancellor? How far do they help the Chancellor deliver his vision for Britain, building a new future, investing in infrastructure, and securing economic growth?

One of the key drivers for Osborne is a flourishing workforce to underpin productivity.

Childcare advocates must continue to stress how childcare enables parents to work, in particular allowing women to stay engaged with work while having children. It's not just the cost of childcare that is a problem for many families, but also the flexibility or lack of it. Given the changing world of work, childcare has to better meet the needs of parents who are working part-time and non 9-5 hours.

Childcare of course is also an early investment in the workforce of the future. Universal childcare will have long term benefits for the British economy in the era of knowledge and skills.

Osborne has already recognised the key role played by grandparents in providing childcare. But more needs to be done to enable older workers to work and care, as they are both expected to and want to work longer.

Increasingly those care responsibilities are for older relatives. But our care system is in crisis, with fewer older people getting help from the state despite our ageing population. The crisis will deepen without further funding when the national living wage is introduced in 2016.

Proponents of better care should focus on Osborne's economic drivers too. Firstly care is one of the leading growth areas in employment in our economy. Second, family carers whose work is disrupted by caring or ended early are a big loss to employers and to our economy. Thirdly, paying for care is increasingly a big drain on families' finances and a threat to inheritance. And finally the care crisis is dragging down the NHS by increasing the demands placed on it.

For all these reasons the Chancellor should act in the spending review to tackle the care crisis. But he also needs solutions that will work not just drain away more resources. Will he go for structural change or quick fixes? Can integration of health and care deliver the change needed? Will there be any funding for prevention? And what about the role of housing in supporting older people's care needs?

I will return to these questions in future blogs as all eyes watch the Chancellor and his spending review.