The Vulnerable suffer while social care policy stagnates.
Contributed this month by John Graver
A big thank you to all front line staff involved in social care - understaffed, underfunded and under immense pressure to support the vulnerable, often working unpaid hours and helping with tasks they are not paid to do.
But why have they and we been so badly let down by a system that no longer fits the needs of the 21st century?
Due to ‘austerity,’ social care spending has been cut continually since 2010. This comes at a time when there has been a rapid increase in demand as the population increases and lifespans extend. In the sixth largest economy in the world, why are we struggling to look after and support the vulnerable of all ages and our senior population? The very people who have given a lifetime’s work to their country. Future populations and health needs can be predicted twenty or thirty years in advance, so it has been known for decades that a huge bubble was approaching where those over 65 years old would outnumber the under -16’s. Other countries throughout Europe have systems which may not be perfect but at least address the increasing need, and are more prepared for the future.
Nearly every MP accepts that the current way of providing for and funding social care is unsustainable; yet the green paper to restructure social care has been sitting on the health secretary’s desk since Christmas; its publication kicked down the road seven times, perhaps stuck in Brexit soup. Meanwhile those who need these services suffer. There seems to be a lack of empathy shown by those in power, who we should trust, perhaps demonstrated by Jeremy Hunt under who, as Health and Social Care Secretary, presided over the growing crisis in the provision of social care. During a recent ‘play’ to enhance his campaign to become PM he admitted that ‘cuts in social care have probably gone too far’. To make this admission to gain political favour must be seen as hollow.
Another ‘austerity’ cutback was the removal of financial help in the form of a bursary, previously awarded to nursing students. This led to a reduction in recruitment, contributing to the shortage of nurses. Again this was at a time when it could be seen how the nursing population was ageing, with many retiring; more, not less, nurses would be needed. Our local MP, Derek Thomas, now freely admits the policy he backed at the time for the removal of this bursary for nursing students has been a disaster.
This means less nurses, not only in the hospitals but also in the community, which again affects the delivery of care for those managing at home.
West Cornwall HealthWatch is a voluntary, independent campaigning health watchdog serving West Cornwall since 1997 with no political affiliations; but we would be failing in our duty if we did not clearly state that we believe we have been failed by governments past and present. Our new Prime Minister has stated it is one of his priorities to sort out social care and he has a plan! Is this the Green Paper that has been delayed for so long? If so we would ask the government to publish it immediately so that at least we can move the debate forward, or is this a new plan? We would ask the current government to publish its green paper on social care, so that at least we can move the debate forward. At present the situation is stagnating. We are being let down by our elected representatives in who we have placed our trust.
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