There was a time when I naively believed that when Government made policy to address an issue or a problem, politicians looked at the facts, weighed the evidence, asked experts for their opinion and then came up with a policy that would hopefully solve as much of the problem as was possible. I know, I know! How very naïve off me!
The problem with social care is, to paraphrase, so vast in can be seen from space. Local authorities who are responsible for social care have lost 40% of their income and it’s possible by 2020 they may have lost another 40%. Half of all day centres have shut since 2010, 81% fewer people receive meals on wheels, 150,000 fewer people receive domiciliary care than in 2011 and the CQC has reported they received 30,000 reports of abuse in the first 6 months of the year.
It seemed to me as report after report over the last few years catalogued with increasing stridency and urgency the problems with social care and how older people were being affected, that the Government would do something. Surely I thought in my foolishness, it’s because the government doesn’t really understand the issues Once they do, they’ll do something, they won’t let this carry on.
How stupid I feel now…..
The Government has actually made its policy on social care quite clear; as far as they are concerned it’s down to the family. First this is Jeremy Hunt on the subject in 2013
“In those countries, when living alone is no longer possible, residential care is a last rather than a first option. And the social contract is stronger because as children see how their own grandparents are looked after, they develop higher expectations of how they too will be treated when they get old. If we are to tackle the challenge of an ageing society, we must learn from this – and restore and reinvigorate the social contract between generations. And uncomfortable though it is to say it, it will only start with changes in the way we personally treat our own parents and grandparents”
And in 2015 in the speech to the Local Government Association
“Family planning must be as much about care for older generations as planning for younger ones. A wholesale repairing of the social contract so that children see their parents giving wonderful care to grandparents – and recognise that in time that will be their responsibility too”
Secondly, was the announcement in the Budget of the Family Home Allowance. This is the allowance whereby from April 2017 parents will each be offered a further £175,000 “family home allowance” to enable them to pass property on to children tax-free after their death.
It’s hard not see this as an endorsement of Jeremy Hunt’s view that families should care for their parents and grandparents at home. If you do this, the FHA seems to say, then you get to keep the house within the family. You won’t be selling the house to pay for care because you’ll be fulfilling your duty to your parents.
Never mind that in this country millions of people, despite what the government seems to think, are caring for the older parents, juggling their own family and jobs to do so. Never mind we work the longest hours in Europe and that actual practical support for carers both financially and in terms of services is derisory. None of that matters; as far as the government is concerned it would seem, if your parents need care, it’s your responsibility. And in order to demonstrate their belief in this being the way things should be done, they appear to have no intention of putting any additional money into social care.
In Government World of course, everyone has family to care for them; that 1 in 5 people over 50 are not parents doesn’t figure in their plans. Neither does the concept that people may be estranged from their children or that even if people do have children they may dispersed all over the globe, or simply unable for whatever reason to offer the level of care the government apparently thinks they should.
What is surprising is that this does not seem to have been more widely picked up. If the Government is saying it’s down to families to provide social care what are the implications of that for families? And for those of us without children, what exactly are we meant to do? Has Jeremy even thought of us? Or does the fact we’ve not reproduced mean we don’t matter?