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The Queen’s Speech is an opportunity to fix social care

George Coxon, author.

One question stands out for those receiving and providing social care ahead of the Queen’s speech tomorrow. That is: Will we have the timetable to address the long-overdue solution to the social care crisis? And a crisis it surely is. As promises of reform time after time are written by many eminent experts and highly respected voices offering a plan to finally reform the system properly. As well as the 841,000 people receiving social care in England, there are easily the same again needing support and being denied it.

The recent Kings Fund report ‘Stories from Social Care Leadership’ tells us that public spending on social care in England is around £22b each year however it is estimated between £100b – £132b is the contribution made to support those in need by unpaid family and friends. Clearly this is unsustainable and in care home land we so often see the consequences of the struggle, stress and distress endured by the whole support network. Commonly I speak with sons, daughters, husbands and wives of loved ones where the pressures have been immense and a prolonged period of ‘just about managing’ has eventually broken down or simply become intolerable. Moving into a care home when the time is right is so hard to judge and carries such anxiety and complex emotions.

Forty per cent of people in care homes pay their own fees – often running into tens of thousands of pounds of costs and perhaps more depending on longevity and point of arrival. You will notice I’m not saying admission but arrival; I make a strong point about language and the fact that my care homes don’t entirely mimic the medical model in our care approach or language.

Natasha Curry, deputy director of policy at the Nuffield Trust, in a series of recent tweets has shared some key points to reflect on as the Queen’s speech date approaches. These included:
⦁ Inaction would be a serious failure
⦁ The Queen’s speech is an opportunity to set out a clear plan for social care
⦁ The fact that many organisations that provide care are struggling financially and are pulling out of the market
⦁ The social care workforce is beset with low pay, a high churn rate, shortages and a block on migration

All of these leading to the very opposite of a solution to the social care crisis. For me, it’s a simple set of essential points to look for in what is said in my determined state of hope and optimism. These are: Parity of esteem for social care in terms of status, high regard and proper investment; reflecting all of the reform work carried out in recent years – there have been more than 16 green papers, white papers, special commissions and well-constructed conclusions from lengthy reviews over many years by all political parties; ‘just do the right thing’ and grasp the social care nettle, and accept, as John Lydgate the monk and poet (1370-1451) said, ‘…you can’t please all the people all the time’ – leadership is about courage and addressing tough choices and making difficult decisions when needed.

More than 400,000 people live in upwards of 11,000 residential care facilities in the UK. It is important to reassure the residents and their loved ones that these homes are receiving the resources they need, and to inspire people to join this amazing working world. This Queen’s Speech surely must give us the green light for a positive future for us all.