Why politicians can no longer remain silent on social care - Mike Padgham

Surprise, surprise… my letter to the two final Tory leadership candidates, calling on them to come clean over their plans for social care has, as yet, gone unanswered.

I’m disappointed as you’d think an issue which affects the welfare of a significant proportion of our community would have merited at least an acknowledgement.

I’ve written another letter to them expressing my disappointment at having not received a reply.

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The people of this country deserve to know how they intend to tackle the crisis in care, which grows deeper every day.

Liz Truss said she would divert more of the Health and Social Care Levy fund to social care at a hustings on Tuesday,Liz Truss said she would divert more of the Health and Social Care Levy fund to social care at a hustings on Tuesday,
Liz Truss said she would divert more of the Health and Social Care Levy fund to social care at a hustings on Tuesday,

I appreciate that other issues, like the economy and the rising cost of living are dominating thinking at the moment. However, I think social care should feature more prominently than it has.

Homecare providers and care homes are struggling to survive and when social care suffers, the knock-on effect means that all other healthcare suffers too as hospitals cannot discharge patients because there is no care available.

This is all down to a lack of funding in social care.

We need to hear from the candidates as to how they plan to build a social care sector that is fit for purpose and which rewards its staff properly.

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There are currently some 165,000 vacancies in social care – one in 10 social care posts in England is unfilled.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay believes recruiting from overseas is the answer but this will not tackle the real issue.

Whilst overseas workers are welcome, we cannot rely upon them. Instead, we should be rewarding social care staff with proper pay and a career structure akin to their counterparts in the NHS. Then working in social care will be an attractive option for people from home or abroad.

I’m sorry to say politicians just don’t seem to care about care.

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A couple of years ago I wrote to all 650 MPs about the care situation and received just a handful of replies. When I have written to the Prime Minister or Health Secretary it has always taken months to get any sort of reply and they only ever set out the current Government policy, rather than attempt to get into the issues with me.

One of the candidates, Liz Truss, did at least make a passing reference to diverting more of the Health and Social Care Levy fund to social care at a hustings on Tuesday, something we have been calling for ever since the fund was announced. I am pleased that she is following our lead. That measure would be a start in the short-term, but we need to hear what she and Rishi Sunak plan for the wholesale reform of the sector.

The danger of the situation cannot be overstated. We are in a full-blown crisis, where people are unable to have the care they need.

And just to be clear, that can mean when your mother or father needs someone to help them get up in the morning, or get dressed, cook a meal, or get to bed, that won’t happen.

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Or when a relative needs a room in a care home, then there won’t be any available.

And when your local care home closes and the residents could be scattered far and wide to other homes, possibly even in different towns.

Those are the realities of a crisis in social care. They are already happening now and are going to get worse, unless politicians wake up to the situation we are in.

The lack of attention to social care drives me and my colleagues in the sector to despair and we wonder what has to happen to make politicians take notice.

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They do not seem to mind having hospital patients waiting for an ambulance under a makeshift shelter so I fear they would have a similar attitude to 20 or 30 care home residents having to leave their home or people in their own homes without the support they need.

As an apolitical organisation, we don’t lay the blame at the door of one political party or another – this brutal erosion of social care has been going on for more than 30 years and governments of all political colour bear the guilt.

But all politicians should be under no illusion that it cannot go on any longer. We will have a significant failure in care provision and people will be left without the carer’s call or a home to go to.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are currently appealing to a very narrow electorate as they try to win those people over and get their vote as new Tory leader.

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They clearly feel that their electorate isn’t interested in social care and that the votes at this particular election are all on the economy, on tax and on tackling the cost-of-living crisis.

Mike Padgham is chairman of the Independent Care Group.