If you ask Tony what his life was like before Graham, he has one answer “boring”. Now, every Thursday Graham and Tony have a chat about their plans for the day, then they head into town to buy some DVDs, join in a rock climbing session or go bowling. For Tony, the best thing about spending time with Graham is simple: “I get out”.
Tony is 49, Deafblind and has a learning disability. For over a decade, Tony was isolated. He used to attend a day service, and enjoyed gardening, drama and cookery classes. After the funding was cut for these activities, Tony no longer had the support he needed to access them. He was often left alone at the day centre with no one to interact with, “I was just sitting there doing nothing”. So his family decided for his own wellbeing it was best for him to stay at home. Like 1.7 million disabled people who are cared for by their friends and family, Tony relies on his mum Janet, his only carer after Tony’s father passed away in 2014. Janet has shared Tony’s isolation, and has struggled to access the support they both need.
However, during the last year Tony has been supported by Graham, his key worker. Graham explains why the few hours he spends with Tony each week are so important. “Just to have a bit of his own time to do his own things. As Tony said, I just take him and support him to make those things happen.” The things that Graham makes happen can be as simple as a cup of tea and a slice of cake, going for a nice walk in the park, or supporting Tony to buy a Christmas present for his mum by himself for the first time.
For Tony, good social care, is the four precious hours he spends each with Graham. It’s having someone taking the time to understand him and his needs, someone to talk to him and help him get out of the house to do the things he likes. However, Tony is one of the lucky few.
Social care is in crisis and yet we’ve been waiting over 700 days for the Government to publish the Social Care Green Paper and start the first steps towards a long term funding solution.
Around the country many working age disabled people are in crisis. Without the care and support they need disabled people and their families are reaching breaking point. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the crumbling social care system is having a significant impact on the NHS. In a recent report, NAO concluded that without a solution for the social care crisis, the future of the NHS is financially unsustainable.
Since 2010 the Government has made over £7billion worth of cuts to social care leaving local authorities struggling to plug the funding gaps. Public Accounts Committee Chair Meg Hillier MP stated in a recent report on the funding situation: “The Government is in denial about the perilous state of local finances”. According to the Local Government Association, councils need an additional £1.5 billion in 2019/20 and £3.5 billion by 2024/25 just to keep adult social care services from collapsing.
This doesn’t take into account the cost of the unmet need, the people like Tony sat alone without any support. A third of councils have no idea how many disabled people are relying on friends or family to meet their care needs.
The government has failed disabled people and their families who have been left without support. They have been waiting too long for a solution, too long or the social care they need.
Working age disabled people need good quality person centred support so they can lead the lives they want to lead. So that they can participate in their community, make choices, make connections with other people, access work, or just enjoy something as simple as going out to have a cup of tea and a chat.
There are too many people like Tony who spent a decade sitting at home waiting for support. The Government must publish the Social Care Green Paper immediately. They must start the process of finding a long term funding solution for social care, and in the meantime provide the additional money needed to avoid more people reaching crisis point.
Tony is now getting the care he needs. With Graham’s support he is trying new things all the time, he talks to people in shops and even took his mum out for a coffee for the first time. Reflecting on his time with Graham, Tony concluded “I’m happy. I’m happy because my Mum is on her own and she can do more things at home. And getting out, I couldn’t do that before”.