Provision of social care in this country has been inadequate for a long time. Funding has been cut back to the bare bone and many older and disabled people are left struggling to cope.
The separation of health and social care was part of the post war settlement, and as a result preventative care and support for those with a moderate level of need has often fallen by the wayside. This week the Barker Commission has released its findings after a year long analysis of the way that social care is funded.
The Barker Commission has recommended that a huge change is needed in the way that social care is funded and delivered. Cuts to funding have meant that there are now half a million older and disabled people who are not receiving care who would have five years ago. Their needs have not changed but they are being let down by the system.
In some ways however, the recommendations have not gone far enough. Level of need will continue to be a struggle for many disabled people if the recommendations are implemented. The Commission has recommended that free care is prioritised to those with critical and substantial needs but that those with moderate needs should be eligible for care by 2025. This simply isn't soon enough.
The term 'moderate needs' is actually quite deceptive. A person with moderate needs may not require round the clock personal care, but they still have a very real need for social care that it is in everyone's interests for them to receive. Moderate needs might include communication support for a deafblind person for a few hours a week to help them pay bills or to support a disabled person to take exercise. These are real needs that shouldn't be overlooked. Many of the people that this will impact on will also be working age and the impact of not providing the right level of care will be felt for a long time.
The preventative role of social care should also be considered. Stories of an overstretched NHS are never far from the news and we often hear of the crisis facing our hospitals and GP surgeries as they struggle to cope. The reality is much of this is caused by a lack of social care. When a person needs a small amount of support at home and they don't get it, they will often experience problems that require hospital treatment further down the line. In the case of the deafblind people that Sense supports, this might be going without mobility training that can help a person move safely around their home resulting in a fall that costs the NHS a large amount of money.
The Care Act which has passed through Parliament this year is an incredible opportunity to ensure the future of social care in this country. It is now vital that the Government listens to the Barker Commission and releases enough funds for local authorities to provide the right level of support for what is currently a chronically underfunded system. We must also ensure that those who have a moderate level of need aren't left out.