Amongst the noise of Presidential visits, resigning Prime Ministers and the ongoing drama of Brexit, there is one issue that has quietly returned to the political agenda.
A double bill of BBC Panorama programmes has drawn public attention to the crisis in care. Through special access to the social care teams at Somerset Council, the BBC has shone a light on the older and disabled people, and their families, facing a confusing social care system and struggling to cope without the right support. Both programmes have shown the impact of the devastating funding cuts to local authority social care budgets. Across England local councils have faced over £7 billion worth of cuts to adult social care since 2010. As a result, social workers, commissioners and directors of adult social care are faced with dwindling resources for packages of care which means impossible decisions about who can get the support they need.
In the first of the two-part series, Panorama followed the experience of 37-year-old Martine Evans who has arthritis. Like 1.7 million disabled people, Martine primarily relies on her family for her care needs, specifically her husband David. David juggles working part time, caring for Martine, and looking after their three young children. The programme follows the couple as Martine’s condition deteriorates and the couple fights for additional social care support. One of the challenges they face is the lack of night time carers, David has to meet Martine’s needs throughout the night, resulting in very little rest for either of them.
Working age disabled adults like Martine account for a third of long term care services and over half of the adult social care budget. Unfortunately, the needs of working age disabled people and their families are often forgotten in discussions about social care.
There is a considerable focus on the needs of older people in discussions about social care in parliament and the media. It’s important that we have a long term funding solution and a social care system in place that benefits older people and working age disabled adults. Often, the public and politicians don’t realise that care and support needs must extend beyond the basics of personal care. Getting support with washing, dressing and toileting would make a significant difference to many, but it is essential that older and working age disabled people receive social care that enables them to access their communities.
Best practice should put the individual at the centre of their care and ensure that their wishes and goals are the basis for any outcomes rather than fitting them into existing service provision. Person centred holistic social care has uniquely transformative power, for an example see Tony’s story. With the right care and support individuals with complex disabilities can lead fulfilling independent lives. This is especially the case in community settings and supported living environments, where disabled people are empowered to make choices about their care, health and wellbeing, but also their hobbies and interests.
However, the wider challenge is that the Government has failed to start solving the care crisis. It’s been over 800 days since they committed to finding long term solutions. The elusive Social Care Green Paper is considered by many to be a lost cause. Furthermore, the green paper would only be the start of the process, not the solution.
Meanwhile, there is currently a £1.5 billion funding gap in social care, which reaches £4.4 billion by 2023/4. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has established and the Panorama programmes demonstrated local authority funding for adult social care is increasingly inadequate. Government needs to fix the care crisis now, there must be an urgent cross party solution that avoids catastrophic care costs.
Social care remains a political football, used for point scoring then kicked into the long grass. Recently MPs Damian Green and Jacob Rees Mogg have each offered their thoughts on potential future funding models, some parliamentarians gave critiques without solutions and others just ignored the ideas.
Without any Government proposals for funding solutions, and the Conservative Party distracted until the summer with a leadership contest it’s unlikely we will see progress anytime soon. Meanwhile more disabled people are reaching breaking point without the care and support they need. Hopefully, the next Prime Minister will finally recognise the urgency of the social care crisis.