Adult social care is not the most glamorous topic. Until it becomes an issue in their own lives, many people aren’t all that sure what it even is. When some people find out that it involves things like washing and dressing older people, they become uncomfortable – it isn’t the sort of thing we like to think too much about.
But we really do need to think about it – we have an ageing population, with more people living longer lives and therefore needing more support. This support doesn’t come cheap and some older people find themselves burning through their life savings or are left struggling on their own as they don’t think that they can afford the care they need.
Added to this, almost ten years of Tory austerity have left adult social care in crisis. Since they came to power with the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives have cut an absolutely staggering £7.7 billion from adult social care budgets in England.
At the same time as the Tories slash budgets, they have failed time and again to come up with any solutions. Two and a half years ago, the then-Chancellor Philip Hammond said that they would publish a “green paper” setting out their proposals by the end of 2017. They missed that deadline. Then they said summer 2018. They missed that deadline. Then it was autumn of 2019. Then it was winter. Then April 2019… You get the idea – astonishingly they still haven’t produced it!
Whilst the Tories dither and fumble, older people who need care and their families are being pushed through a system that just doesn’t work. I’m sure you’ll all agree that this just isn’t good enough.
Luckily, there is a party – Labour – that is taking this challenge seriously. At the Party Conference this week in Brighton, we announced that the next Labour Government will create a National Care Service. Modelled on one of our greatest achievements – the National Health Service – this would see England’s failing social care system replaced with one in which personal care is free at the point of use.
In other words, all over-65s who need it would receive help with washing, dressing and meals. There would also be an expansion of specialist dementia services and better training for staff. There is already a similar system in Scotland and I think that older people in Denton, Ashton and Stalybridge have just as much right to a decent care system as those in Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling.
I hear from so many constituents about the terrible emotional and financial strains that are caused by the current care system – we need a National Care Service and we need it soon.