“Reforming social care in England has proved difficult for governments of all hues, resulting in a system that does not meet people’s expectations and support that is often underfunded and sometimes squalid” Chris Giles & Sarah Neville, Financial Times 7th Sept, 2021.
The current government’s recently announced package of reforms will eventually provide some funds over a three-year period from April 2022, but little in the ways of actual delivery mechanisms.
In has been previously estimated, in 2011 by the Dilnot Commission, that 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 would need to spend over the £100,000 on care during their lifetime. Now the government estimates it will soon be 1 in 7.
Unfortunately, the recently announced reforms do not begin to address the underlying causes of the crisis. We need a dramatic immediate increase in funding combined with a serious long-term strategy to ensure that the needs of older people are met without involving them and their families in catastrophically high costs. A national care service available to all should be financed by fair taxation paid by those who can best afford to pay.
Recognising the continued depth of the crisis locally, the Shrewsbury & Atcham Labour Party is stepping up its campaign to raise awareness of the problem, both now and in the future.
The local party has examined the overall impact of government policy nationally and the response locally of Shropshire Council. It has also investigated in greater detail the current position with respect to residential care, domiciliary care, unpaid care, as well as focusing on staffing issues such as low pay, high turnover and large numbers of vacancies. The findings, together with guidance on how local people can raise their own concerns, can be found on shrewsburylabour.org.uk.
Addressing the crisis, local Labour Councillor Kate Halliday said:
“The failure of the government to provide the care older people need is placing an almost unbearable burden on many local families. Following the The National Census of 2011 the number of unpaid carers in Shropshire was estimated to be 34,000 but that figure may well have doubled over the intervening 10 years. There are an estimated 10,500 employed in the sector.”
With severe shortages in staff retention and recruitment, it is vital that the pay and conditions of social care staff are dramatically improved. They have been the heroes of the pandemic and their contribution should be properly recognised. In Shropshire 20% of them are on zero hours contracts and many are paid the bare statutory minimum. The government’s hike in National Insurance Contributions will reduce take home pay from April as well as threatening the viability of their employers. High turnover rates and vacancy levels must be tackled head-on.
Shrewsbury Labour Spokesperson Ian Barber, commented:
“Older people who need social care are often faced with huge bills. Some local residential care homes are charging over £1000 a week. The government has said it will introduce a lifetime cap on ‘personal care’ costs of £86,000 in 2023, but even then, accommodation and food spending will be excluded and it is expected that only care authorised following a local authority assessment will be counted. It is grossly unfair that those living with dementia or other long-term conditions should face catastrophically high costs which eat up their life savings or force them to sell their homes.”