Why is the Labour Party going to omit funding of social care reforms from its manifesto? - Daxa Patel
The omission amounts to a false promise that they will do what successive governments have promised, but failed to deliver, which is to follow through a robust review and implement a social care service that is fit for its current purpose. There is a huge gap between the service and the needs of those at the mercy of it.
The next General Election is not far off and if the ‘new’ Labour Party wants to be in government, then it is time that they do more than just touch on issues that need fixing. The work involved in undertaking social care reforms cannot be underestimated. But let’s be honest, it cannot happen without a strategy and a plan of how it will be financed. It is legitimate to ask how such reforms will be funded when as a nation we are in heavy debt as it is.
For those who have not had to experience the benefits or challenges of social care, let me explain in simple terms. Social care is all forms of personal care and practical assistance for individuals in need of extra support to enable them to have a quality of life.
We are familiar with ambulance handover delays due to the social care crisis. Basically, patients waiting on trolleys. We are also aware of the passing of the buck between the NHS and social care. This has been going on well before the pandemic arrived, but the pandemic lay bare the fault lines in both these critical services.
Just like the NHS proposed and overdue reforms, the social care crisis deserves a real commitment, and this should be a non-partisan issue. The public can read between the lines and they can see which party is committed to improving the long-term health and wealth of this nation post-Brexit.
Families relying on social care to step in to support their elderly or frail relatives are often dismayed by the haphazard support. There are people who can afford to pay privately for their social care. However, many have no choice but to rely on what little support, if any, they can get through the social care system.
I have in the past dealt with a situation where a patient with dementia was discharged in the early hours of the morning with no plan of support once they left. It is also not good when an elderly patient prone to falls is discharged without proper care in place once they leave the hospital. Work has been done for better coordination and communication between these two vital services but without the family members advocating for their loved ones, those without families to speak on their behalf are going to get lost in the system. In the good old days, a good GP would ensure there was joined up care but nowadays this is by no means guaranteed.
The NHS is no longer the sacred service it once was and social care is badly in need of reforms. Most users of social care services are the vulnerable, the frail and often people with mobility issues. With a bit of lateral thinking and support, more people can be empowered to live an independent life but this requires resources, funding, and the management as well as coordinated effort between different agencies and service providers. But most importantly, this requires commitment and conviction.
The victims of a poor service are the users, the would-be users, their families, and the staff who often find themselves having to do their job with their hands tied behind their back.
The NHS already has a two-tier care system with patients having to go privately as opposed to waiting for much needed operations, but what about those who do not have the funds to go privately? The same crisis extends to social care. In a country of food banks, which is gradually becoming the norm, we are unlikely to change the landscape for the better unless politicians put their neck on the line and put forward what they are going to do to make Britain great again.
I want to know how serious the Labour Party is when it talks about social care reforms and I want to know why this does not merit a mention in its manifesto. Is it not important enough or is this a tactical move?
A few years ago, I came across NHS continuing health care funding where patients with a primary health care need could qualify without a means test, for the cost of their care to be paid for by the NHS.
It was like the best kept secret as not many people who were likely to be eligible for this knew about it. They were having to sell their homes to fund the cost of their care when they could easily have got support through this.
It highlights how the end users are not given much thought by the decision makers. My message to the politicians planning for the General Election is to focus on the needs of the common person, rather than on your prospects of getting into 10 Downing Street.
Daxa Manhar Patel is a leadership coach, author and solicitor.