Charity calls for urgent action on social care

28 Feb 08
Social care will continue to deteriorate unless the government urgently reviews its spending plans and radically overhauls the system, campaigners have warned.

29 February 2008

Social care will continue to deteriorate unless the government urgently reviews its spending plans and radically overhauls the system, campaigners have warned.

Age Concern this week said that with local government budgets rising by just 1% and social care costs by 4%, there was a growing disparity between aspirations and reality. In a 'state of the nation' report, the charity called on the government to review social care spending annually in each Pre-Budget Report to stave off a crisis.

Age Concern director general Gordon Lishman acknowledged that last year the government set out some impressive aims for social care, but questioned whether it could deliver.

'Without sweeping changes, the system will limp on until it breaks completely, leaving millions of older people without the care they need to stay healthy and independent.

'Now is not the time for dithering about the unavoidable costs needed to care for our rapidly ageing society. Decisive leadership is urgently needed.'

The report was launched at the charity's annual Age Agenda conference on February 26. Andrew Harrop, Age Concern's head of policy, told delegates that a fair, personalised and sustainable system of social care was necessary.

'We need a new, honest debate about public spending,' he said. 'We don't know how much money we need to spend in the next 15–20 years. We need to start that debate on the key services that older people say they need.'

Harrop added that Age Concern would continue to lobby for social care to remain a public priority, some form of state support for everyone who needed it and clarity at local and national level on entitlement criteria.

Ministers are already committed to a review of eligibility as well as a consultation on social care funding. Responses will feed into a green paper to be published later in the year. From April 1, a three-year £520m transformation grant will help councils modernise service delivery, shifting the emphasis from acute intervention to a more preventive service.

Care minister Ivan Lewis told the conference there was no doubt that social care was one of the greatest challenges facing the country; a problem the government had 'belatedly' recognised.

One delegate claimed there was a £34.8bn surplus in the National Insurance fund and called for some of it to be spent on social care. Lewis refused to make such a commitment. 'If I'm about to embark on a major consultation and today tell people in this audience what they want to hear and then can't deliver it, that is fundamentally dishonest,' he said.

 

PFfeb2008

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