If You're Old Or Disabled, You Will Have To Keep Waiting For Better Care

09/03/2017 11:27 GMT | Updated 10/03/2018 10:12 GMT
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The government has recognised that care is in crisis. The Budget has provided some more 'sticking plaster' emergency funding for care via local authorities.

How that £2 billion will be distributed and used over the next three years remains to be seen.

But the truth of the matter is that it's not new funding, simply money that has been brought forward to 2017-2020. And more importantly, it goes nowhere near the sums required to meet the needs of our ageing population, let alone make up for years of cuts in council funding.

The impact of the 'extra' funding will also depend on where you live, your council's priorities and how well it works with its local NHS. There are still great variations between local areas on not just spending but also crucially experiences and outcomes for older people, particularly around access to home care services and admission to and discharge from hospital.

It will require much more fundamental reform to improve care for older and disabled people. That's why we should welcome the government's commitment to a review of how care is delivered and funded and its recognition that care is not just in crisis but the care system is broken.

The terms of the green paper review are key. This must be much more than tinkering of the sort that Dilnot's commission did before recommending a cap on care costs that would have helped few families.

We need a wholesale review of care and a clean sheet of paper for the future.

The starting point must be a new vision for care fit for the 21st century, as a key part of our social and economic infrastructure, serving families and carers and providing independence and quality of life for older and disabled people. It will be well resourced, well staffed and well used - a universal care service that is fully joined up with health and funded in the same way.

We must think big. Now is the chance for the government to create a legacy for the 21st century.

That's why tinkering is not good enough and will only store up problems for the future. With our ageing population, we need a create a new care system that is fair and simple but also sustainable for generations to come. It will cost more and it will require more public spending.

That doesn't mean we should start with how to fund it which has been the focus of recent weeks' speculation.

If we get the vision right and agree on the priorities for a new care system, then we can work out how to pay for it. To start with funding will only create another pantomime horse.

By all means have a debate about how government spending is financed and revenue is raised more fairy and effectively. But other spending priorities - from defence to childcare - are not agreed on the basis that policymakers identify a new way of funding them.

A final plea to government. We've been round the houses on reviews and commissions on care over the years. Let's not spend years on this latest review. We know what works from evidence here and abroad; we know what older and disabled people and their families want; and we know that where's there a will, there's always a way.

Let's hope government doesn't keep older and disabled people waiting much longer for better care.

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