Sunday, 15 July 2012
A cruel betrayal dressed up as a reform of social care.
Government attempts to put together a white paper addressing the ‘crisis’ in the provision of social care have collapsed into chaos and bitter recriminations. This is hardly a surprise given the long history of foot dragging on this difficult issue, but still a tragedy for vulnerable people and their carers.
Amongst the proposals made are a cap on the amount individuals will be expected to pay for their care, deferred loans to help pay for the cost of care and national standards for access to care that would allow people to transfer the standard of care they receive from one authority to another; something that has previously been impossible.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley described the proposed changes as ‘ the most comprehensive shake up of social care since 1948’ and said they would mean vulnerable people were able to get ‘the care and support they need to be safe and to live well so they don’t reach crisis point.’ Brave words, unfortunately they ignore one important detail; how all of this is going to be paid for.
The government refuses to give any commitment as to where the cap on care costs will be set or how any of its other proposals will be funded until after the next spending review’ which could be up to two years away. As Labour shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham put it ‘with no answers on money this white paper fails to pass the credibility test.’ As a result, he went on to say, the proposals risk ‘appearing meaningless and may in fact raise false hopes amongst older people, their families and carers.’
Further criticism was heaped upon the proposals by Sir Merrick Cockell of the Local Government Association who said they failed to ‘address the reality of the growing funding crisis’ Richard Humphries of the King’s Fund attacked the ‘financial vacuum’ at the heart of the proposals and Michelle Mitchell of Age UK said the delay on making a decision on funding would have ‘a devastating impact on those currently in need of care and support.’
There is a pattern forming here, can you see what it is? To me it looks very much like another instance of the toxic car wreck of incompetence and cynicism that characterises this benighted government and all its works.
This botched, misleading and at heart deeply cynical set of proposals is a direct product of the sustained attack on the welfare state that has been almost the only discernable aim of the coalition. Two years of thundering tirades about ‘scroungers’ has blinded people to the real purpose of the welfare state; ensuring that everyone from dukes to road sweepers can live and die with dignity.
Nothing else could explain their willingness to put forward proposals that promise help for people struggling to cope without bothering to put together some basic costings. Anyone who thinks that paying for social care will be a top priority come 2014 is frankly living in cloud cuckoo land; with an election around the corner tax cuts and eye catching gimmicks will be the order of the day. Social care may be one of, if not the key political issues of our time, but being important isn’t the same thing as being glamorous.
I could, of course, turn this article into another attack on the ‘wicked Tories’ proving they are still as toxic as they always were; but however cathartic that may be it wouldn’t be accurate. Labour had thirteen years in which to tackle the ‘crisis’ in funding care for the elderly, it also had a moral duty to do so since freeing people from the fear of ending their days in poverty is a core value of the party.
What Labour did though was; nothing at all, apart from commissioning several reports to describe at great cost problems they already knew existed. In this latest round of negotiations their intent seems to have been scoring points rather than making constructive suggestions.
That is a serious mistake, for which the party will pay at the ballot box. The public are uninterested in the manufactured squabble over lords reform, what they want is a party that will set about slaying the ‘giants’ that stalk the fears of modern citizens, unemployment, social breakdown, inequality of opportunity and most of all poverty in their old age.
Rather than flirting, as he seems intent on doing, with the glib marketing expertise of Tony Blair Ed Milliband and his shadow cabinet need to concentrate on bringing people together to fight for fairness and dignity. If they don’t and the current cynical coalition is allowed to stumble on things will only get worse for the young, the old; for all of us.