The government must unlock the money because the care crisis is now

Helene Mulholland of The Guardian newspaper, interviewed shadow social care minister, Barbara Keeley, and the following article was published on 7 February, 2017.

Chronic underfunding means that even basic needs for the most vulnerable are not being met, says shadow social care minister Barbara Keeley

 Ask Barbara Keeley what keeps her awake at night and Labour’s shadow cabinet member for mental health and social care will tell you it’s the stories of people in “heartrending” situations whose care is being cut.

For equitable and sustainable social care we need a dedicated tax

She cites the case of a man in his 80s who has been told the NHS continuing care he has received for the past six years will stop; the two paid carers will be gone, with the expectation that his wife, also in her 80s, will look after a husband who is completely immobile, incontinent, and cannot communicate or eat or drink without help. Keeley fears that such scenarios are set to increase if the funding shortfall in adult social care continues because councils and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) “can really only get into rationing now”.

“If you are a council, if you are a CCG, looking at paying NHS continuing care and you have to make cuts this year – quite a lot of councils have to make cuts this year – you are going to have to cut the care of people who are already receiving it, and that is tragic.” Adult social care has risen up the political agenda after years of consecutive austerity cuts coupled with rising demand for services. Myriad warnings from a slew of organisations have been issued about growing levels of unmet need, struggling social care providers and the additional strain placed on NHS services and informal carers.

The Local Government Association, meanwhile, warned that severe underfunding was putting councils at risk of not being able to provide the help older and disabled people need with basic tasks – as stipulated in the 2014 Care Act. Not surprisingly, Keeley says much of her focus since taking up the post five months ago has been on adult social care.

The government needs to bring forward £700m of social care money earmarked for 2019-20 to fund home or residential care, Keeley argues, so that older people aren’t kept in hospital unnecessarily. “They’ve allocated the funding, so they should bring it forward – because the crisis is now,” she says.

Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South in Greater Manchester, believes forcing councils to plug the shortfall through a tax on local property values rather than on the basis of need is not the way to tackle the issue. “It clearly isn’t fair to create an even bigger postcode lottery where the level of service you can get depends on where you live,” she says.

It isn’t fair to create an even bigger postcode lottery where the level of service you can get depends on where you live.

Junior health minister David Mowat said last week that people with elderly parents had a responsibility to look after them, just as parents do their children. Keeley retorts that one million people over 65 don’t have children; moreover, three million family members in the UK are already juggling work and caring responsibilities, she says, with the peak age for caring being the 50-64 age bracket. “If you’re saying that caring is the responsibility of individuals in families, you have to think through how they are meant to juggle work with that.”

The Care Co-Operative’s view is:
It is perfectly obvious that existing methods of funding care are unfair and place an enormous burden on vulnerable people and their families. Self-funders (as they are known) help care providers maintain their services’ financial viability and stay afloat. Care providers recognise the value that self- funders bring to their business and, through our service, are willing to acknowledge it by offering them discounts on what they would normally be asked to pay.