The Social Care Bill is only the start of what we still need to do to reform adult social care and support
By Nargis Khan
Today’s Queens speech has firmly set the dividing lines for the next election with the announcement of a bill that will give free personal care to those most in need in their own homes. The Government’s focus on adult social care is extremely welcome and captures the priorities of ordinary people that we speak to and hear from on the doorstep and with the many in our communities for whom access to care services is an important lifeline that impacts on their right to lead a life that has dignity and respect at its core.
How we think about and provide adult social care and support services is a fundamental part of our commitment to social justice. Since 1997, the Labour Government has firmly set the agenda on care for the future and has made great strides to improve older and disabled people’s social, economic and physical wellbeing, from the introduction of pension credit and the minimum income guarantee to winter fuel allowance and free swimming.
But we recognise that in the midst of a shifting landscape in care we need to do more. The country is changing demographically and culturally: e have an ageing population with people living longer and leading more active lives against a backdrop of huge financial uncertainty.
Whilst I welcome today’s announcement, I believe it is vital that in developing a future national care service balancing national consistency and local flexibility needs to be a key feature of a reformed system of adult social care and support.
I strongly feel that local authorities are at the frontline of the adult social care which puts us in a crucial position in protecting and supporting vulnerable people. We can provide the strong political and managerial leadership, and we know the needs of our residents and have been able to innovate and bring forward creative solutions for our residents.
But the debate on a future national care service must be placed in the broader context of the economic downturn and the future funding of public services. Labour Councils are already working hard at a local level to mitigate the impacts of the recession and continuing to deliver for the most vulnerable.
Delivering for the elderly, those with a disability and in need of care are at the heart of Labour values of social justice and fairness but these priorities are not shared by all. While Labour both nationally and in local government continues to plan for the future, Tory councils are already advocating cuts to services for those with the highest need. The Tories in Hammersmith and Fulham have broken promises and hiked charges for home care, meaning that only those that can pay get the services they need.