THE BLOG
28/10/2015 12:24 GMT | Updated 28/10/2016 06:12 BST

My Plea Ahead of the Spending Review

So my plea to George Osborne is this: Come 25 November, remember that social care cannot be robbed to pay for the NHS, or indeed any other vital public service. It is a vital public service in its own right, and deserves a funding settlement befitting of its importance, the huge and growing need for its services, and the fact that, if we pride ourselves as a country that cares about the most vulnerable in society, social care IS the foundation of that principle. Remove the foundations and everything crumbles.

A significant moment in the on-going social care crisis will be reached on 25th November 2015 - the day the UK government publish the Spending Review.

This review will set out how the government intends to finance crucial public services over the course of this parliament, as well detailing the savings they will make in light of the deficit Britain faces. My dearest wish is that social care is placed in the category of a crucial public service that requires priority investment, and not as another means to make savings.

I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a 'deficit denier'. I completely appreciate that our country must live within its means, but as I have highlighted previously, to protect NHS spending (if indeed you believe it is protected) whilst cutting resources for social care is completely absurd.

The end result is more people receiving care in expensive hospital beds rather than in the community, which pushes the NHS further towards breaking point (if indeed it isn't already there). But it's about more than just money. Of course a Spending Review is a hard fiscal exercise in managing the nation's expenditure, but those affected by these decisions are real people with real lives who are often facing immeasurable hardship.

Social care is vital for many people from different walks of life. It's not just about older people whose needs are increasing at the same time as their ability to meet their own needs is diminishing. It's also about people of all ages with learning disabilities, mental health problems, severe physical needs and disabilities.

Chances are that most of the electorate know someone within their family and friends who either needs social care now, or will do in the future. And don't forget that you and I could easily be in that position one day too. Social care isn't a luxury commodity, nor is it something most people who need it want to be needing.

Social care is what a compassionate society provides to those who, often through no fault of their own, are in circumstances where they need extra help with day to day life. That extra help could be anything from shopping and cooking to full personal care, and it could be provided in many different settings, from the person's own home, to a shared lives or supported living service, or indeed a care home.

Good social care keeps people out of hospitals, and often reduces the need for intensive GP intervention as well, which given how overstretched GP's surgeries are is something to be applauded. The reason social care often gets a bad press is down to a combination of stories that highlight poor care, and the fact that the vast majority of social care services are run by the private sector.

This contrasts sharply with the largely publically-funded and cherished NHS. The idea that companies make money from social care is, it seems, a reason to try and squeeze the sector until, as Denis Healey famously said, "Their pips squeak". All fine and good to punish profit-making businesses you might think, but behind those businesses are the vulnerable clientele that I've highlighted above. These people often don't have a choice of who provides their care, or if there is a choice, it's between rival businesses.

Whether you support or are vehemently opposed to private sector care provision, we are where we are in terms of government policy, and my view is that vulnerable people should never suffer because of ideological arguments. Taking the profit-making element out of the equation for a moment, social care is never going to be 'cheap' to provide regardless of who is providing it, and frankly I would be extremely alarmed if it was 'cheap', purely because the level of expertise, understanding, time, continuity and dedication that's required should never be aligned with low pay, poor working conditions and high staff turnover.

As we move towards a living wage, funding for social care needs to reflect the complexities and demands of the work, and also acknowledge the importance social care plays in the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens, alongside, of course, making the link with reducing the burden on NHS resources.

So my plea to George Osborne is this: Come 25 November, remember that social care cannot be robbed to pay for the NHS, or indeed any other vital public service. It is a vital public service in its own right, and deserves a funding settlement befitting of its importance, the huge and growing need for its services, and the fact that, if we pride ourselves as a country that cares about the most vulnerable in society, social care IS the foundation of that principle. Remove the foundations and everything crumbles.