YOUR detailed coverage and editorial regarding the serious problems facing our social care system rightly argues for a joined-up strategy (The Yorkshire Post, December 23).
It fails, however, to recognise that this will never happen as long as the well-being of our vulnerable elderly is subject to the whims of what is now termed the care market. At the root of the problem is the fact that we have allowed long-term care to be almost wholly turned over to private enterprise.
Before I was elected to the Commons in 1987, I had worked for many years in local authority social services in West Yorkshire. For most of this time it was local councils that delivered both domiciliary and residential care which was of a generally good standard and provided by trained and reasonably paid staff. Most communities had their own council-run care homes, often with sheltered housing attached.
Things began to change with the election of the Thatcher government in 1979, on a platform of ‘rolling back the state’. Both Margaret Thatcher and John Major sharply reduced the funding of social services departments. Public service provision for the elderly went into rapid decline with a growing private care sector, initially concentrating on residential care, stimulated by the availability of social security benefits based on income rather than actual care needs. It was boom time for private care businesses as entrepreneurs cashed in on a publicly funded but totally unplanned massive expansion of institutional provision. It became very easy to fund the admission of an elderly person into a care home but much more difficult to resource the support services enabling them to remain independent.
Eventually, because of Treasury pressure, the 1990 NHS and Community Care Act placed assessment for access to care funding in the hands of local authorities, alongside the introduction of a transitional grant, 85 per cent of which had to be spent in the ‘independent sector’. The end result was the continued expansion of totally unplanned and unco-ordinated private residential and domiciliary care alongside a rapid decline in council provision.
It is a matter of great personal regret to me that the New Labour government failed to challenge the ideology which accepts market forces determining the provision of care needs. And the present Government doesn’t seem to grasp that the shambles that is social care has a direct impact upon the huge challenges currently facing the NHS.
The Conservatives certainly succeeded in rolling back the state in social care and we can clearly see the consequences. A future government of a different persuasion must have the courage to recognise that planned public care provision rather than the market is the only answer to the significant demographic challenges of an ageing population.
Powerhouse a sop to voters
From: Rita Platt, Rawdon, Leeds.
YOUR columnist Tom Richmond must realise, of course, that the Northern Powerhouse was George Osborne’s sop to deliver the flagging northern vote. It was never designed or even meant to be a serious economic strategy, we’ve seen the evidence of that.
Now Chris Grayling is tasked with delivering something, anything to keep the angry Northerners at bay.
But even he’s given up any pretence, sticking two fingers up at the representations made by various delegations to argue our case. You’re right, it’s not even on the Government’s radar, but then it never was.
One thing I have noticed, however, is that despite the gnashing of teeth and protestations, Manchester seems to be doing OK, not necessarily under the banner of the Northern Powerhouse but simply because it toed the Government line and elected a mayor.
As soon as it did, the crumbs falling from the transport budget table all went Manchester’s way. They have an integrated transport system, Leeds have bendy buses. So maybe we have ourselves to blame for not being sufficiently subservient to our London-based paymasters.
But then the reason we didn’t vote for a mayor was because the various councils were so politically dogmatic that they refused to co-operate.
So maybe it all our fault after all.
Left dreary by second homes
From: Keith Walker, Denholme.
WITH reference to the letter concerning ‘second home taxation’ in the Yorkshire Dales (The Yorkshire Post, December 23). In March, I heard that Tornado, the brand new steam train, would be heading north to Carlisle from Haworth. With this in mind I decided to get on my bike and put it, and myself, on a train from Keighley to Skipton, then ride through the Dales until I found a nice focal position near Bell Busk.
Once the train had gone by and with pictures in my camera, I decided to ride on to Malham but I wished I hadn’t bothered. Whilst sitting outside a hostelry, I spied two rats that didn’t look to have a care in the world!
As to the village itself, my youthful dreams were shattered. Gone was the pretty village I remember from the days of the film Boy, Girl and a Bike.
Instead, I came away with a vision of empty, unkempt houses in a dreary setting.
Surely things would not have turned out this way if the village had been populated with full-time residential Dales folk instead of a village full of holiday lets?
From: John Eoin Douglas, Spey Terrace, Edinburgh.
NOT only will the new UK passports be the wrong shape and size but, instead of a proper dark blue, they are to be produced in a shade akin to that of Scotland’s national flag (the Saltire) which I can only presume is a doomed attempt by Theresa May’s government to appeal to Scottish National Party voters.