There is something about having low expectations which means you are never disappointed. I didn’t expect much for social care in the Chancellor’s autumn’s statement and I was proved right. However it’s quite something when the chancellor managed to get below even my low expectations. I’ll be honest I expected a social care sop, perhaps an increase of 1% on the social care precept or the announcement of another enquiry or commission into social care to kick the issue into the long grass for a few more years. Even I didn’t expect absolutely nothing, not one single mention or acknowledgement, zilch nada zero.
I’ve held the view for some time that the Governments unwillingness to support social care is nothing to do with not understanding and everything to do with not agreeing. People have probably got tired of me positing this but I will post it again
- “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” Jeremy Hunt Sec State for Health
- “The ’Auntie’s room’ is a room for parents, or your grandparents. And they just assume that when you get a place for your parents, you will have a place for your parents – you will look after your parents. I think we can do with a bit more of that Asian attitude in Britain” Sajid Javid then Business Secretary
- “We’re not going to turn overnight into a society where everyone can live in large housing units, but all sorts of things suggest that more people will probably have a mum or dad living with them at some stage in the future” Alistair Burt then Care Minister
I firmly believe that ideologically the Government believes that care should be down to the family and the state’s role is to exist as an absolute last resort. If that ideological position is true, a bit part of shifting it is about tackling the belief that families aren’t doing enough already, and that some people simply don’t have family at all. I want to make it clear that AWOC doesn’t think families don’t do enough but I do believe the Government absolutely thinks that.
And so AWOC is faced with a dilemma. We are a tiny tiny organisation and we have to target what we do. For a long time I’ve been convinced that the way to change things for people AWOC is to ensure system change. If we change the thinking, planning and policy on ageing so that it recognises the massive demographic shifts around family, not just that there are people with no children but also people whose children live far from them, who become estranged from family and who come from much smaller family units with not just no children but fewer siblings and nephews and nieces. However, we don’t have the resources to embark on the level of campaigning required to shift what seems to be an ingrained ideological view
Instead, I believe AWOC has to focus on how people ageing without children can support each other because at the moment I can’t see that that Government consumed as it is by Brexit is going to do anything about social care at all. Local authorities are already progressing down the route of “what can you do for yourself, what can your family do for you? , what can your community do for you?”. With people AWOC often coming from smaller extended families as well as having no children or children able to help, it’s going to be up to us to organise ourselves. We need to organise our own communities both geographical and virtual, develop our own networks of support, find our own solutions and not look to a Government who cares very little about social care and doesn’t even acknowledge that older people without family even exist.
The development grant from the Big Lottery Fund is helping us write a plan for AWOCs future. We want to know what you think; tweet views with #awocfuture, email is at email@example.com, join our facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1476937045912974/, if you are in or near Leeds, London, Stockport or York join the local AWOC group https://awoc.org/local-awoc-groups-2/
We need to make our own future, our own later life, together we can, we can and we will.