My social care ‘nightmare’ exposes general election and Matt Hancock as irrelevances – Tom Richmond

IT has always been said that sport is a glorious irrelevance – the great wordsmith Hugh McIlvanney, an eye witness to so many iconic moments, was among those to hold this view.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street - he has failed to deliver social care reform.

Yet, while sport, I contend, can do wonders for the human spirit, I’d come to the view that politics, and Parliament, had become an ‘irrelevance’ before a December 12 election was agreed after more petty point scoring at Westminster.

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Why? As I listened to Question Time after a draining day helping look after a terminally-ill relative, what struck me was the extent to which many MPs – and commentators – have become detached from reality due to Brexit.

Will the election lead to social care reform?

It was a view that was re-enforced when the election was confirmed – and the same old soundbites and insults were trotted out. Sorry, this election risks becoming just another distraction and diversion from the very real issues facing the country.

For, while I accept the failure to implement the 2016 EU referendum result is the biggest political crisis since the Second World War, it is matched by the failure of successive governments to put in place social care policies to support the elderly, vulnerable and dying.

East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight says he is not standing down in favour of Boris Johnson fighting his seat.

From my vantage point, the system is held together – just – by the care and compassion of NHS staff; the benevolence of charities like Macmillan and the kindness of strangers. It is only when you’re trying to book a night carer to help ease the burden that you truly appreciate the fragility of the system.

It must also be a hundred times worse for those who don’t have relatives to support them – or are so bewildered by the care bureaucracy that they’re left bereft of assistance.

And it is why I was aghast at the sheer arrogance of Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock when pressed about his intentions at a time when 1.4 million people are already said to be receiving inadequate care.

Appointed in January last year, he has still failed to publish the long-overdue and much-promised Green Paper on social care – despite Theresa May, and then her successor, saying this issue was a priority. “We are working on a plan. Absolutely,” he said.

Former Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity's reputation is now in ruins following his departure from the tourism body.

Pressed if it would come out before polling day, he added: “We’re not ready to publish it yet.”

Try telling that, Mr Hancock, to all those families who will spend this election campaign at the mercy of a social care system which has not kept up with the needs of an ageing society – and all those who are not in a position to access, or afford, care and/or carers at a time of great need and trauma.

To them, this election, and the Tory party, will be an irrelevance until totally inept Ministers like Matt Hancock, and others, come to regard this issue as one of great relevance to voters.

SIR Greg Knight is such a low-profile MP for East Yorkshire that I had forgotten about his existence until he rose to his feet in the Commons after Monday’s vote on an early election.

Known by his sobriquet ‘Silent Night’, he was accepting a “very gracious” apology from Labour backbencher Stephen Doughty. What was all this about? It soon became clear.

Doughty had suggested that Boris Johnson was looking to vacate his marginal Uxbridge seat – the PM’s majority is just over 5,000 votes – and contest a safer constituency.

He named Sevenoaks, and also East Yorkshire, where Johnson, and his partner Carrie Symonds, have recently spent time birdwatching, before Sir Greg let it be known that he had already been readopted by his local Conservative association.

Fair enough – but it doesn’t reflect well on the 70-year-old, best known for his annual campaign to stop the clocks going back each winter, that he should be caught up in this fuss. More assiduous MPs would not have been.

I SHARE the despair of freelance yoga instructor Slava Brooke when a Northern service to Leeds was “delayed due to more trains than usual being repaired”.

When I had the misfortune to catch the early morning train into this week, it was a ‘modern’ 30-year-old electric unit rather than a patched-up Pacer. “They’re never on time, mate,” a commuter told me as we waited and waited at Guiseley.

“I know,” I told them in reply. “You should follow The Yorkshire Post,” he replied. “They’re the only ones who are trying to get something done.” They were even more pelasantly surprised when I told them that I was the paper’s comment editor.

I also pointed out that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps still seems sympathetic after telling MPs with respect to Northern: “I agree that poor service is unacceptable, and the financial problems are well documented.” But he needs to realise that commuters have run out of patience – the aforementioned instructor says they lose money every time a train is late or cancelled – and they will want to see details of the Minister’s action plan before election day.

SO the ex-Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity, and his representatives, claim that £151,000 ‘termination costs’ incurred by the troubled tourism body do “not reflect what he received from his employer” following his resignation in March on health grounds in the midst of expenses and bullying allegations.

Given Sir Gary was being paid £243,000 per year, perhaps he – and his advisers – would like to provide a detailed breakdown of his pay-off because there are many people, myself included, who struggle to understand why officials, whose pay, perks and privileges come fully, or in part, from the public purse, are entitled to any severance deal when they choose to quit at a time of scandal.