It was interesting to watch the sudden spike of interest in social care during the general election campaign. The public debate was welcome, but now the dust has settled what action has actually been taken?
The fallout from the “dementia tax” made it appear as though, for once, social care was being given the same level of priority as the NHS. People were calling for its protection as forcefully as they do our health service.
Since then, a Care Quality Commission report revealed that nearly a fifth of adult social care services have been rated as inadequate or requiring improvement and public sector cuts are thought to be behind a sudden stall in life expectancy. Yet neither of these stories has earned the same degree of public scrutiny or government response as social care did before the election. The interest in social care risks looking like a one-off.
We’ve been promised a green paper, which must address issues such as long-term funding and care worker shortages. What it must not be is false hope, another document that talks about change but offers no real action.
My care home offers specialised services for those living with dementia, so addressing talk of a “dementia tax” is, for us, of particular importance. It’s a sad but true fact that people living with dementia face financial discrimination because of their condition. It is out of their control yet, unlike other diseases, isn’t covered by the NHS. Asking individuals and families to pay for dementia care themselves is unsustainable and wrong.
At the same time, it is only right that the government introduces a cap to keep social care costs down for everyone. A British baby born today can expect to live to 104 years old. The UK is woefully under-prepared for looking after our growing population in older age. Whether it’s scrapping plans for a dementia tax, implementing a sensible care cap or creating a unified health and social care sector, things have to change.
Attention must also be given to the extraordinary people who work in this sector. The team I work with at Anchor’s Cranlea care home in Newcastle are second to none. Despite challenging work, they show commitment, empathy and an ability to deliver the highest quality of care on a daily basis. As care workers, we should be receiving recognition from government, not more cuts that add further pressure.