The Care Bill: the final chapter

Guest post by Megan Cleaver, Parliamentary Officer at Scope.

Today’s debate in Parliament on the Care Bill marks the final opportunity for MPs to make changes to reforms the Government claims will transform social care for older and disabled people and make the system fit for the 21st century.

We are looking out for a debate in Parliament on an amendment from Paul Burstow to ensure there is sufficient funding of the social care system. This has support from a broad coalition including the Care and Support Alliance, the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives.

This is an important statement as local authorities and charities can often appear at loggerheads over social care.

Because while the Care Bill has been broadly welcomed by both charities, care providers and local government who have applauded the Government for setting out their vision to create a preventative care system where older and disabled people will not just be supported to survive, but to live full and active lives in their communities, there are grave concerns about whether this bold vision can actually become a reality on the ground.

Cuts to local authority budgets of more than 20% since 2010 have had a devastating impact on social care provision. Indeed, just last week Age UK reported that over 800,000 older people were going without vital help due to the squeeze on social care funding.

To reverse this damaging trend, Paul Burstow’s amendment would require the Care and Support Reform Programme Board (which brings together senior figures from both local and central government responsible for commissioning and providing care services) to report annually to the Department of Health on whether they are satisfied that sufficient funding is in place to ensure that the reforms in the Bill i.e. creating a preventative care system with the well-being of care users at its heart- can be implemented.

In addition, the Programme Board would also review where the new “national eligibility threshold” for care has been set. This is hugely important as last June the Government stated its intention to set, and thereby fund, the threshold at a level where only those older and disabled people with ‘substantial’ needs will be able to get care. This will mean that hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people with ‘moderate’ needs will be denied the care they need to get washed, get dressed and get out of the house- the very essence of an individual’s well-being.

Without this reporting from the front line of social care, shortfalls in funding will likely continue leaving too many older and disabled people unable to benefit from the preventative care system they had been long promised.

Indeed, recognising that Labour’s vision for “whole person care” will not be achieved without the necessary investment, Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall has also put her name to this amendment- making it a truly cross-party appeal to the Government to ensure “the most valuable legacy in health and care reform for a generation” can truly be achieved.

Because while the Government has claimed that the key to putting social care on sustainable footing is to ‘use the resources we currently have more efficiently’, there is significant evidence that it is  through properly investing in social care that is in fact the most efficient use of local authority budgets.

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