Do we Care in the Community?
Waking up to this morning’s Today Programme on Radio 4 turned out to be informative and annoying. The news headlines featured the Director of Social Services, providers and voluntary organisations response to adult social care funding crisis. So I waited to hear the interview, surely it would be at one of the prime times: 7:10, 8:10 but no it came on at 8:35. Those prime slots were reserved for more exciting news like a profile on Vladimir Putin, the war in Syria and the reduction in petrol prices. Perhaps we are getting tired of hearing about the crisis in care for the elderly and people with mental and physical disabilities. Perhaps we think it’s too difficult and too far down the line—its ‘them’ not ‘us’.
The reality is that the demographic is changing—we are living longer and we will continually live longer unless of course we get poorer and then we will die younger. This is the same arguments around flood defences—the climate is changing and therefore we need a longer strategic view about making communities safe. We need that same long term view about how we enable people to live independent and fulfilled lives when they may not be as fit and healthy any more.
Protecting the NHS budget without protecting health promotion and adult social care is a false economy. For years we have been told that the only way the NHS would survive is if demand was reduced by supporting people to live healthy lives, manage their long term conditions including mental health and have a range of community based services to enable people to be safely discharged from hospital when they no longer require clinical care. We were also promised that mental health would be treated with the same priority as physical health.
All over the country, Councils are struggling to stretch their budgets to meet the growing need. The level of cuts are unprecedented and will affect those very services that will ease the pressure on the NHS. Because of the speed (final funding allocations will not be known until late December!) no one knows what the community will look like until the cuts are decided. No real impact assessment. There is a danger that the fabric of community based services in the public, private and voluntary sectors that provide people with support to combat loneliness, supported housing, help to look after themselves and support for family carers to name a few will be destroyed or weakened so that the NHS becomes the point of last resort again, fuelling rises in emergency admissions—just the opposite direction of the 5 year plan.
seAp Advocacy and other front line voluntary organisations are seeing more people who are not receiving the services they need. The people with the most complex needs, who require a number of interconnecting services will be the worse hit in particular those with mental health issues. Everyone is very quick to criticise when a child is neglected or an elderly person receives poor care in high profile cases. But if we want that good care, then we need to put our money where our mouths are. Good care costs as many who pay for their own care can testify. Do we want to live in a society where only those who can afford it, will get good care? In my view these cuts to social care are the biggest threat to British values of fairness, compassion and care. Surely Mr Osbourne can find funds to support this.