Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to a cross-party approach to tackling Britain’s social care crisis as he claimed dementia should be ranked alongside the most serious illnesses such as cancer to support a growing number of sufferers.
Mr Johnson told The Yorkshire Post that everyone in Britain had a right to “dignity and security” in old age and admitted that cases of people having to sell their family homes in order to fund care costs had to be eradicated.
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Acknowledging that successive governments had failed to tackle the mounting crisis in social care, Mr Johnson said it was “unfair” that conditions such as dementia were not treated as an illness and that it did not receive the same level of attention as conditions such as cancer.
What we want to do is bring together all the parties in a cross-party solution with two guiding principles - that we have dignity and security for everyone in their old age as number one and number two that nobody has to sell their home to pay for the cost of their care.Boris Johnson
While campaigning for the Conservative Party leadership this summer, Mr Johnson said a cross-party approach to social care was needed to help to repair a system suffering from under-funding and an increasingly elderly population.
However, this is the first time he is understood to have made the pledge since securing the keys to Downing Street last month.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post during a visit to Leeds to announce new prison funding, Mr Johnson said: “This is one of the great challenges that our country faces and indeed has faced for decades.
“There is an unfairness that dementia is not really classified as a disease or as an illness in the same way that say cancer is. It doesn’t attract the same kind of support and funding from the state. That is an incredibly difficult problem to solve and Government after Government has failed to solve it.”
A Green Paper on adult social care funding had been in the works during Theresa May’s time in Downing Street but remains unpublished.
An estimated 1.4m people in Britain are currently without the appropriate levels of care they need and a succession of studies from medical and political bodies have concluded that urgent reforms of how the system is funded and managed are required urgently.
When pressed as to the Government’s immediate plan to address the crisis, Mr Johnson said: “What we want to do is bring together all the parties in a cross-party solution with two guiding principles - that we have dignity and security for everyone in their old age as number one and number two that nobody has to sell their home to pay for the cost of their care.
“Those are the two principles we will be acting on.”
When Mr Johnson mooted a cross-party approach on the campaign trail the notion was received with scepticism from some quarters, notably from the then Liberal Democrat hopeful Jo Swinson.
A recent House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report said that adult social care funding must be boosted by £8bn immediately, describing the system as “riddled with unfairness”.
An investigation by this newspaper revealed last year that the region’s local authorities were dipping into reserves to the tune of almost £80m to fund budget shortfalls for care.