Frontline care waits for George

24 November 2015

Alice Mitchell-Pyeby Alice Mitchell-Pye

Tomorrow the chancellor will outline his spending plans for the next four years in the Comprehensive Spending Review.  

These decisions will have a big impact on the lives of disabled people in this parliament and beyond.

Over the past few weeks it has been impossible to open a newspaper without reading about the crisis in social care, or turn on the TV without seeing it on the news.  

We hope the chancellor has been listening. 

Social care is chronically underfunded — £4.6 billion has been removed over the last five years and the situation is set to worsen dramatically up to 2020 as more people than ever before need support.  

The Local Government Association estimates that the funding gap is increasing by a minimum of £700 million a year. 

The reality of this is tens of thousands of disabled people now receive a standard of care far below anything we can or should be proud of.

A bath or shower once a week, sitting in an incontinence pad all day, eating cold food and being supported by staff so rushed that they have barely enough time to say hello.

Even worse than this, many thousands of disabled people now receive no support at all. 

It is important not to forget it is not just older people who need support. Hundreds of thousands of younger disabled people need vital support as well.

Without this they cannot live independently, with the opportunity to contribute economically and participate fully in society.

They can’t do the things many people take for granted — live in their own home, go out and see friends or go to work.

Unless the chancellor announces meaningful funding for social care tomorrow, 2016 may prove a watershed moment.

The government has recognised the problems in the NHS and made a commitment to more sustainable funding, which is welcome.  

But in ignoring social care he has left the other half of the story unfinished.

This inequality between health and social care is more than just unfair — it is also unsustainable.

Social care is vital to the future of the NHS. You cannot fix one without fixing the other.

Without a sustainable social care system the NHS will face yet another unaffordable winter crisis, with thousands arriving in A&E because they have nowhere else to go for vital support.

Thousands more will be trapped in hospital beds ready to go home but with no support to enable them to. 

This problem isn’t new. It has developed over successive governments. It has been much talked about and discussed over the years.

It was a ‘wicked issue’ when we thought it was one about changing demographics and increasing numbers of older and disabled people.

As the recession began, it moved into a crisis and now most independent analysts believe care homes will close to publicly-funded residents in significant numbers in the near future.

This will leave many people quite simply with nowhere to go. 

There is no single solution to this — we will all have to think and do things differently.

Better integration of health and social care will help. Increasing the amount councils can raise through council tax may also be a step in the right direction.

But questions must be asked about how either will truly solve the problem.  

Alice Mitchell-Pye is a policy and campaigns officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability

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