Fairness, Freedom and Responsibility were the buzzwords of the first Queens Speech under David Cameron’s Government.
Yet we have little detail, so far, how these ideals will be applied to social care.
We had the promise of a Commission which will look at the structure of social care but will the Commission be given the freedom and responsibility to look at all aspects of the care system and the much of the unfairness that is inherent in the system.
Yes, we know there is the question of the fairness of people having to sell their homes to pay for care but there are many other issues of unfairness to, such as the variation in services across authorities, the level at which people are able to access services, the difference in fees charged by some providers to private or publicly funded users, whether or not Local Authorities pay sufficient care fees etc. There is also the question of whether care workers are treated fairly in being asked to provide intimate services for such low remuneration, is it fair that the carers allowance for those who provide unpaid care for loved ones is just £53.90 per week?
There is also, perhaps, a question of whether the Government will be fair and responsible with social care. Is it responsible to launch another Commission into the funding issue following on the double consultation process undertaken by the last Government. To waste money going over the same ground (and I am sure that many of the submission from charities and lobbying groups will be near identical to those submitted earlier in the year) seems irresponsible, surely it will be much better to focus on the wider issues of social care that impact care users and those who provide support for the vulnerable.
Whether or not the Government gives Social Care fair time in Parliament is another question. According to the 2001 census details more than 6 million people provided unpaid care, add to this the 1.2 million people working in social care in England, the 1.78 million people receiving Local Authority care packages in England (plus those in the Devolved Governments) and you find that over 15% of the population have a stake in care policy, a number that will increase with the rapidly ageing population.
The Government has committed itself to a very full Parliamentary programme of the next 16 months or so and it is difficult to see where social care will find the time to have the debates in Parliament that the demographics and economics suggest it deserves.
There will, of course, be freedom for some as personal and individual budgets are pursued by the Government but the question here is how much Local Authorities will be able to make available to individuals who may not, because of financial restraints, have sufficient budgets to make real choice in their care services.
It is obvious that Social Care will be impacted by the cuts announced so far (and those yet to be announced!) so there needs to be an immediate debate on how those who depend on social care are to be protected from the cuts.
The most vulnerable in society must have fairness and freedom but it needs a responsible Government to achieve this.
Please sign my petition calling for the Government to make Social Care a High Priority: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/social-care-should-be-a-government-priority.html