24 hours to save social care and put dignity of elderly on Boris Johnson’s election agenda – Mike Padgham

IT isn’t too late to save social care. Not quite. There are still a few hours left before we go to the polls.

It leaves a few hours to make this election more about providing care for the 1.5m who currently aren’t getting the care they need and deserve to receive.

It means there is still time for the election challengers – especially Boris Johnson – to make social care a much higher priority than he currently has it.

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Because he is ahead in the polls, we have to assume Mr Johnson has the greatest chance of being elected as the next Prime Minister. If so, we have to hope that he has a late change of mind, as Scrooge did in a Christmas Carol, and makes social care top of his Christmas General Election list.

Pressure is growing on party leaders to act over social care.

At the moment, on Mr Johnson’s list of priorities for his first 100 days, should he be elected, social care is languishing around eighth. I’d like to see it at the top of that list and if it has to come behind Brexit, at the very least it has to be the number one domestic priority.

It remains hard to see what more we can all do to get Mr Johnson, and indeed all the parties, to make social care a key issue tomorrow.

Mike Padgham is chair of the Scarborough-based Independent Care Group.

I have been writing to party leaders for years now, trying to get the issue higher up the priority list. If it wasn’t for excellent campaigns like the one by The Yorkshire Post, the care of our oldest and most vulnerable wouldn’t be getting mentioned at all.

This has now gone way beyond a domestic political issue. The crisis in social care – with more and more homes closing, homecare contracts being returned as unviable, and more and more people going without care, is becoming a human rights issue.

Those 1.5m people, living without care, are surely being denied a basic human right.

care campaigner Mike Padgham with cardboard cutouts of Jo Swinson, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn to illustrate their non-attendance at a major conference in York on the issue of social care.

In her column in this newspaper on Monday, Jayne Dowle summed it up perfectly when she said government after government had failed to tackle social care and failed to understand that if you don’t have plenty of money to pay for care, you are plunged into a nightmare.

That is why I argue that social care must be a key issue at the polls tomorrow.

The party manifestos for the election did little to reassure.

The Conservatives could only promise £1bn extra a year for social care – which, though welcome, won’t even touch the sides in terms of ending the crisis. Other than that, they made the usual vague promises about guaranteeing that no-one should have to sell their home to pay for care. Little sign of a long-term strategy to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all...” that Mr Johnson promised on the steps of 10 Downing Street when he first became PM. Instead we have just murmurings of “cross-party” discussions on social care, something that has been talked about for decades now.

As I say though, there is still time for Boris Johnson to change his ways and save social care, even at this late stage and not have this election remembered for just one issue – Brexit.

Labour’s manifesto is moving in the right direction, with £10bn pledged and a vision of a longer-term plan for social care, albeit that NHS and social care are still being treated separately, which is disappointing. The challenge for Labour of course is to get elected and, after that, to implement all their promises, including social care.

The Liberal Democrats’ proposals promise an extra £7bn a year between NHS and social care, funded via an extra penny on income tax. Again, all well and good and I respect their honesty in saying where this money will come from. I have always believed that deep down people will be prepared to pay a little more in tax or National Insurance in return for better social care. However, £7bn a year – split with the NHS – won’t have too great an impact.

Whoever walks through the door of Number 10 on Friday, they cannot delay any longer. They will have to roll up their sleeves and aside from resolving Brexit, they will have to get social care done too.

The Independent Care Group, of which I am chair, said in its own manifesto that the next government must set up a taskforce to tackle social care early in its first term. I think that is vital and know that organisations like the Independent Care Group and many others have a huge amount of knowledge and expertise in the sector and would be only too happy to help.

By coincidence I will be in London on Friday, so if the new Prime Minister wishes to discuss social care straight away, I’ll make time available to do so. Will they?

Mike Padgham is chair of the Scarborough-based Independent Care Group.