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How should we talk about social care? by Dorothy Jarvis-Lee

How would you define ‘social care’? ubu’s believes that it must ensure that everyone, whatever their ability or background has a place in society and the opportunities to achieve what they want. There has been much talk amongst politicians and in the press recently about social care and what expectations we should have of it and especially how its funded.

Theresa May’s so-called ‘dementia tax’ proposals which were outlined in the Conservative Party manifesto seem to have been reviewed following a public and political outcy. Social care funding has become one of the biggest challenges of our age – it’s an issue that politicians are all too likely to place in the ‘too difficult’ box because of the scale of the problem. There is, however, one aspect of the debate that may be hindering progress in this area: the fact that too many people conflate ‘social care’ with ‘elderly care’ only.

At ubu we recognise the urgent need to improve the provision of care for older people. The population is ageing fast and needs are becoming more complex. More must be done to ensure dignity for all as they reach the twilight years of their lives. Yet, constricting the social care debate to elderly care risks exacerbating the existing intergenerational divide between a wary younger working age population who feel hard done by and unheard, and an ageing ‘baby boomer’ population who are perceived as having the financial stability to take care of themselves. We don’t think that this helps anyone.

Instead what we should focus on is acknowledging that anyone, anywhere – young or old – may at any point need social care. Some people are born with complex needs and require care from a very early age. Others may go on to develop mental health conditions or other disabilities which mean they require varying levels of support. There are people of all ages in our society who, at one time or another, may not be able to look after themselves. High quality care, whether it is delivered like the service ubu provides, so that individuals can live with greater independence in in their own homes, must – like the NHS – be available to all during times of need.

Should the Conservatives win the general election, we can expect the promised Green Paper on social care later this year. Other political parties will no doubt have their views and policies on this issue too. Let’s hope, whatever happens in the election and beyond, that the debate is one that redefines the wider population’s understanding of ‘social care’ and encourages everyone to value the role it plays in our society.


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