THE BLOG

Post Autumn Statement, Where Next For The Campaign For Better Care?

25/11/2016 12:11

By the time the Chancellor got on his feet to deliver the Autumn Statement, expectations of any extra funds for care were very low. The fact that nothing was unveiled confirmed how far care still has to go to win political support.

With the growing crisis in care, it won't be long before the system crashes and a scandal emerges about older or disabled people left without help.

But the Chancellor rubbed salt in the wounds by hinting that the next spending review, some years hence, would address the challenges of our ageing population and, by implication, care and support for older people.

Of course for many older people needing care now, that spending review will come far too late, and will probably provide much too little additional support.

In the meantime nothing has changed. More older people need help but fewer are getting any support due to the continued squeeze on council funding. The responsibility for paying for care is being passed increasingly to older people and their families. Or where they can't pay, family carers are expected to pick up the pieces, or older people will struggle on their own.

The consequences are many. Older people can't get the care they need. Families are under greater stress and pressure. Carers will have to give up work and the economy will suffer. And inevitably the NHS and hospitals in particular will face increasing demands to care for older people. A winter of crisis beckons.

All this is despite the fact that over recent months there has been a sustained publication of evidence about the care crisis. The three main health think tanks called for extra funding for social care. Charities working for older and disabled people, care providers and local government politicians and officers all called for additional funding. And widespread media coverage reinforced the key messages.

So what next? Here are three suggestions for starters.

First, we all have to try and make the care and health system work better for those needing care. Despite the funding squeeze, many providers provide quality care. More could do so with the right leadership. The integration of health and care with a bigger role for housing will continue, as must innovation. Somehow more must be done to promote prevention, rather than simply delivering a care service for those in crisis.

Second, we must continue to collect evidence. Evidence of what works, and how investment in care saves money as well as promotes quality of life. And evidence of the care gap between need and the provision of care, and the impact of the gap on health and other services as well as families and our economy.

Third, we need a much more effective campaign over the next forty one months to the 2020 general election. This has to mobilise families who need and rely on care, alongside the care sector itself. Crucially, care has to move from the margins to the mainstream and the need for better care must be linked to economic and social progress with widespread support beyond the usual suspects. The campaign for better care has to be popular and populist, using the latest social media techniques. And as well as highlighting the problems, it must coalesce behind a way forward based on sharing the risks and costs of care.

Despite the autumn statement, we must remain ambitious. If we value older and disabled people, then we should value their care and support and their contribution to our society. Our families will all need good care at some point soon.

Stephen Burke is director of Good Care Guide and United for Ages

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