In the morning, the first thing I do is reach over to turn off my alarm clock. I then get up, choose what to wear and check my appearance in the mirror before I leave the house. After that, I hop on the tube to get to work and start the day reading over my emails. At the end of the day I might head out to dinner with a friend and do some quick jobs around the house before I go to bed. A standard day and one that doesn't cause me any difficulties as someone with full use of my sight and hearing.
Imagine now trying to do this routine if I were deafblind. I wouldn't hear the alarm clock ringing, I wouldn't be sure that what I was wearing was appropriate for the weather outside, I would need the support of a communicator guide to navigate the journey to work and might need additional technology to allow me to read my emails and the support of an interpreter to get through a day in the office. Again, I would need support to meet a friend, if not how would I get there, and support to get home afterwards. Being deafblind can turn what seems like an average day into a complicated one, support and technology needs to be factored in and arranged and this support is provided by social care.
If I had just a few hours of social care each day which of these activities would I choose to complete and which would fall by the wayside? Although not all people in receipt of social care are able to work, these challenges still apply. You might need help with paperwork, doing your food shopping or keeping your flat clean. Sadly many deafblind people are being forced to choose between support to pay bills on time and having the chance to leave the house due to a lack of social care.
Funding has been cut back to the bare bone and local councils are struggling to find the money to provide even the most basic care. This chronic underfunding has left many older and disabled people without the social care they need and this is having a huge impact of the deafblind people that Sense supports.
When we talk about social care, we aren't just talking personal care and help getting washed and dressed. We're also talking about ensuring that people can exercise, get to medical appointments and have a life outside of the home. Over the past year the Care Bill has provided a real opportunity to make sure that social care remains high up the political agenda and over the next few weeks we will see it debated in the Commons. One of the welcome features of this bill is that it does recognise the link between social care and broader wellbeing and that in the long term adequate social care is in everyone's best interests, both ethically and financially.
However, key decisions on the Care Bill are still yet to be made. For example the issues of funding and eligibility are yet to be determined. Will the Government set the bar to high for disabled people with more moderate needs and will more funding be released centrally for social care? Who gets care is just as important as the amount people are getting. A disabled person with moderate needs - so perhaps they just need one or two hours a week of support - can quickly end up needing a lot more support if their needs aren't met over a long period of time. Decision makers must make sure that issues like this are addressed.
The Care Bill is good news for deafblind people and will hopefully lead to a better provision of social care. I believe that this new piece of legislation will be an important step forward for disabled people but we need to ensure that local authorities have the money to back it up and provide the amount of social care that people with disabilities so desperately need to not just get by, but to live full and active lives.