Our social care system is in crisis

Here's my article for the January-February issue of the Muswell Hill Flyer. 

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"It’s not uncommon these days to find yourself living miles away from your parents and elderly relatives. Whether it’s because you’ve travelled to make a life in another country, as I did, or because you’ve been priced out of the place you grew up in and have moved away to create your own family home. Sadly, that’s a reality for far too many young people.

If we can’t be there ourselves each day, the one desire we all share is to see our loved ones receiving the best possible care and support as they grow older. Yet Age UK research has found that 1.2 million older people already don’t receive the care they need and as the crisis in social care funding grows to a level the Care Quality Commission has called “a tipping point” that number continues to rise.

Under first the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition and now a Conservative Government, social care funding has been cut by £4.6 billion since 2010. Here in Haringey that’s meant the amount spent on social care has gone down in real terms by 9.8% even while demand has risen. This has huge consequences not just for provision but for the quality of care people receive. It means older people can’t be safely discharged because of a lack of social care support and so find themselves increasingly stranded on hospital wards – causing huge distress to the individual and cost to the NHS.

I’ve been raising Parliamentary Questions on the growing crisis and speaking out on behalf of my constituents who share with me their stories of what the care crisis means to them.

Because it isn’t just care for elderly people which is suffering, it’s also vital support to enable people of all ages living with a disability to lead independent fulfilling lives. If a society can be judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens, then the care crisis is a damning indictment of this Government’s approach.

The Local Government Association estimates social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020. This includes at least £1.3 billion needed immediately.

Yet despite this and despite the urgent calls coming from across the spectrum of councils, care providers, charities, professionals, the NHS and crucially from people themselves who have seen their loved ones suffer, the Chancellor failed to mention social care at all in his Autumn Statement. Whilst the Local Government Finance Settlement the following month at least acknowledged the issue, it too fell far short of what is needed. Allowing local authorities to bring forward council tax rises is a tiny sticking plaster on a gaping wound. It doesn’t provide anything like the funding needed and will only increase the postcode lottery as it raises the least money in deprived areas that have the greatest need.

What social care urgently needs is a genuine injection of new money now and for these vital services to be properly funded in the future, taking full account of the rising demand for care as people live longer lives.

I will continue to make this case in Parliament and argue for proper integration between health and social care. Please contact me or come along to one of my regular advice surgeries to share your experiences of the social care system to help guide my work now and in the future."

Catherine West

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Catherine West

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