Baroness Margaret Wheeler is a member of Labour’s Health team in the House of Lords
It’s our first day back after the Whitsun recess today and Labour Lords will be piling on the pressure for the Government to keep its promise to publish proposals and legislation during the course of this Parliament to address the growing crisis in the funding of adult social care.
The Prime Minister has pledged to deal with the issue and the Health Minister in the Lords, Earl Howe said he wouldn’t shy away from it. But that sadly is just what the Government is doing – and big time.
The Queen’s Speech confirmed that the long-awaited White Paper will just address social care law. Very important of course, but we know that making changes to the legal rights and entitlements of elderly and disabled people without dealing with the issue of how the services are to be funded now and in the future, will only create more expectation and demand that can’t possibly be met.
We need a full package of reforms that address legal, current and long-term funding issues. Local authorities are currently having to cut £1bn off social care budgets, and we know that 8 out of 10 councils now only provide services for those with substantial or critical needs. Indeed, the average charge for an hour of home care has increased by 10% in the past two years.
The ‘spring’ White Paper and its accompanying ‘progress’ report on the Coalition government‘s response to the Dilnot Commission recommendations on long-term funding was due to be published this week. But now we hear it has yet again been put off to the end of the month.
Ministers know that funding is the key issue and it is clear they are struggling to produce a report that shows they are any further forward in picking up the gauntlet thrown down by Dilnot, to take the urgent action that is needed.
The progress report needs to set out a clear timetable for consultation on the funding options – and the government needs to show its good faith and put more urgency and momentum into the cross party talks that Labour initiated.
Dilnot has widespread support as a framework for change across voluntary organisations, social care professionals, providers, families, carers and service users.
A new system for funding social care is urgently needed and older and disabled people cannot wait any longer for this vital issue to be addressed.