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Tories have no answers to the adult and social care crisis

Cllr Jackie Meldrum, Lambeth Cabinet Member for Adult Social on the Government's failure to get to grips with the adult social care crisis

It has been over four months since the dramatic general election in June – and despite it being a hot election topic, there is still no sign that the government has any real plan to address the crisis in adult and social care.

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We probably shouldn’t be surprised, as one of the most memorable moments of the last campaign was the Tories hastily rewriting their manifesto after a justified backlash against plans to make older people pay a dementia tax . It was a fiasco and as Labour’s Andrew Gwynne said “{The Prime Minister} is unable to stick to her own manifesto for more than four days. And by failing to put a figure for a cap on social care costs, she has only added to the uncertainty for millions of older people and their families.”

This is a key point as the crisis in an adult social care is one that is affecting more and more people as our population ages. Thanks to decades of improvements in health care, people are living much longer:  the UK over 65 population is expected to increase by 40% to sixteen million over the next seventeen years. The over 85s UK population is currently at 1.6 million and rapidly increasing. Dementia increases with age, but with no known medical treatment, social care is the main response. Disabled people and older people want to stay in their own home and the ‘domiciliary’ care sector (care at home) is there to support them. However, while families and care workers provide a support system, with increasing frailty and particularly need for support at night, it may be necessary for people to move into a room in a residential care home with 24 hour support.

It is clear from this brief description and as I wrote in February, that this system needs significant funding. And at the moment the government simply isn’t providing enough money to councils to support expanding need. Most social care is means tested. Currently the rules are anyone with savings and property worth over £23,250 is liable to pay the full cost of residential care - in the region of £800 per week upwards, which is clearly a steep figure that large numbers of people cannot afford. In boroughs like Lambeth, with a comparatively young population, there are relatively few self-funders which means more of a cost to local authorities. It is estimated in London alone there is a £285 million shortfall in adult and social care funding and that is despite, in places like Lambeth, social care for adults taking up over 25% of the council’s total net budget.

Despite these constraints, we are attempting to tackle these problems. We have used the government’s adult and social care precept to raise council tax by 2% to bring more money into our social care budgets. Council tax rises are not always popular, but we need to take this step to at least hold back some of the pressure on overstretched services. We have used this money to ensure our home care workers are now on the London Living Wage. After intensive lobbying the government eventually provided an emergency fund of £2 billion over 3 years for social care across the country.

These are important steps that people have benefited from – but these measures will not solve the funding crisis. What we need is for a government which found £1 billion for a coalition deal with the DUP to find some real, extra investment for a service that we all could one day rely on. Labour’s manifesto quite rightly called for a healthcare system fit for all with a fully costed increase in spending on adult and social care.  It is time for the Tories to admit they were wrong and adopt a Labour policy at national level that will deliver a standard of care for our older & disabled people that we can all be proud of.

Cllr Jackie Meldrum, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care

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