At the end of May, I wrote that the Conservative Party’s so-called ‘dementia tax’ proposals were being reviewed following a public outcry. Since then, as the results of the General Election in June became apparent, those proposals are likely to be consigned to the ‘too difficult to do’ box. The new Government has made only a vague commitment to “bring forward the proposals for consultation.”
I believe that it is important that our country engages in a national debate on the future of health and social care and the Government is not put off by the election result. Much of the discussion in the aftermath of the election, including questions posed by the widely respected independent think-tank the Institute for Government (IfG), has focused on social care for the elderly. Perhaps the reasons for those questions are obvious because of the United Kingdom’s changing demographic. By 2040, nearly one in seven people is projected to be aged over 75 and the majority of those people will be in need of some level of care provision The IfG posed a series of challenging questions for policymakers, including to what extent individuals and families should pay compared to the taxpayer? What level of need should the state provide? And should there be greater integration of health and social care?
The debate about the future of health and social care is welcome, but as I remarked in my last blog, it needs to be about much more than care for the elderly. In every community there are vulnerable people who need help to live their lives with greater independence, many of whom live with mental health issues, complex needs and disabilities. These individuals must be afforded respect and dignity in the way they receive care and enabling support throughout their lives. The Government, and policymakers need to have this group of people clearly in their minds, recognising that as decision makers, they have a responsibility to ensure that everyone, whatever their ability or background has a right to a place in society where they can achieve what they want, enjoy the benefits of citizenship by being be included in the debate.
The IfG has said that "silence is not an answer". ubu agrees, and we welcome the new project that they will be launching in November that will explore fresh ways to address the long-term funding facing health and social care. When the Government consultation is launched, we suggest that it must look at social care in the round, as a holistic system. Health and social care needs reviewed to include all those who need support, and not only care for the elderly. We need to talk about the future of health and social care now more than ever, and MPs from every political party have a responsibility to go out into their community, engage with and meet those who need their support the most – those whose voices are not currently being heard.