If the rumour mills in Whitehall are to be believed there are at last moves afoot to resolve the social care crises. Crunch talks are due to take place at a planned meeting on Tuesday 22nd June to be attended by Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Mat Hancock. I can hear the echoes rebounding saying we have heard it all before. But this time I think it is different and in this blog I will give you some of the reasons why.
Boris Johnson will know that time is running out if he is to claim that he has resolved the social care crises before the next general election. He is aware of the infamous speech he made at the time of his election. “I am announcing now-on the steps of Downing Street that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”. Brave words but as yet undelivered. He would hardly like to carry this mantle through to the next election.
Even if progress is made at the crunch meeting It will take time to gain agreement of his own party, and members of other parties. Time will be needed for the passing of legislation, the setting up and implementation of the system.
The chancellor no doubt will be exercising caution on costs. But as Jeremy Hunt former Health Minister and the Health Foundation shows that this argument can be overplayed. They found that the costs are not insurmountable. If the proposals recommended by the Andre Dilnot where adopted the additional annual cost would be less than a billion pounds a year in the last year of parliament. This should be manageable, given the annual spend for social care is currently 23 billion.
Rise in the cost of care
Ever increasing rises in the payment of social care will in turn bring more pressure on the government. Recent figures show an alarming increase in the cost of care home fees. The average fee for a residential home in 2019/20 stood at £672 per week a rise of 3% on the year before, and 29% higher than in 2011/12.
According to LaingBusisson the figures for nursing homes published by ‘Which’ show that the people who require round the clock care are now paying £937 per week or £48724 per year.
These figures are also masked because people who self-fund their care are covering for the lower fees paid by local authorities.
Reorganisation of social care
Social care comprise 2 strands. The cost of purchasing care and the cost of delivering care. They are invariably intertwined and impact on the other.
The pandemic has shown the dire state of social care and the need for closer merging with the NHS. We need to see an end to bed blocking and the recognition of the crucial role played by staff who care for people in the community. Caroline Abrahams of age UK says…
“despite the efforts of the good people who work in social care, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that social care in England has become a miserable embarrassment”.
Other countries have done it
In England we have delayed the reform of social care for far too long. We have lagged behind Germany and Japan who have engineered the political will to reform their social care system.
The clock is ticking. Boris Johnson knows that now is the time to reform social care and end the crisis. He cannot afford to fight another general election with his infamous Downing Street speech still ringing in the voter’s ears.
The conservatives have now had a decade to deal with the social care crises. Now is the time to bring to an end the misery and bankruptcy of so many families who have suffered hardship through the payment of social care fees. The government needs to recognise the vital role played by social care workers who provide care in the community. Social care desperately needs reorganisation and closer working relations with NHS. It deserves the support of government to become a professionally recognised community service that is fit for purpose.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy