As the nation speeds towards a General Election in 2010, the current Government has clearly flagged up Social Care as a key topic over forthcoming months. Following yesterday's Queen's Speech, reaction has been generally cautious, yet positive:
Age Concern and Help the Aged:
'We welcome the Government’s decision to focus its last Queen’s Speech before the General Election on some of the key issues affecting older people, but ministers will be in a race against time to deliver on this last-minute agenda. Providing free home care for people with the highest needs and introducing energy price support for households in fuel poverty will provide welcome relief for some of the poorest and most vulnerable older people. But eradicating fuel poverty and fixing the crumbling care system will require much more comprehensive strategies.
'We warmly welcome the Bill in the Queen’s Speech to bring in free personal care at home for those with the highest needs. This represents the first step in ensuring a better deal for this group. It will be essential that councils are properly funded to provide this care, so that there are no perverse incentives to either push older people into residential care homes earlier than needed or assess their needs as not critical enough to warrant free care at home.
'Even if this Bill reaches the Statute Book, fundamental reform of the entire care system will still be urgently required. We call on all the political parties to set out definitive plans for reforming the system ahead of the next General Election so that older people, their families and carers can judge their proposals for providing the high quality care people desperately need.'
Sue Collins, Programme Manager, Joseph Rowntree Foundation:
"We welcome the Prime Minister's commitment in the Queen's speech to reform the current adult care system. However, our evidence shows that for any new system to work it must be fair, transparent and sustainable.Too many users of the current system are left in the dark to struggle with inadequate services. At the moment many older people who choose to remain independent, and can afford to fund their own care, do not receive any advice, information or advocacy. The new system of care must be workable for all users - both current and future - and must ensure quality services for all."
Cllr David Rogers, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board:
“The LGA fully supports helping people to live at home for as long as possible. Not only does it contribute towards the overall health of the person involved, but it also helps to cut down on care home costs. There are many people currently self-funding their care, who will inevitably wish to benefit from the proposal of free care. The LGA is concerned that the government’s estimates do not appear to have taken these people or those who have never applied before, into consideration. The government needs to demonstrate how the proposed £670m in funding will be sufficient to meet demand.
“Councils will be expected to find at least an additional £250m per year to fund this new proposal. It is difficult to see how local government will be able to meet this new financial commitment unless government removes existing red tape and bureaucracy, and we will work with Government to secure this. The LGA has long called for council and NHS social care spending to be more closely aligned and having the Department of Health part-fund this commitment is a positive step in the right direction.
“We are still no clearer on what will be included in the personal care package and how it will fit in with the development of personal budgets. To that end, we look forward to studying the fine grain of the Bill."
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) President Jenny Owen:
Of the social care plans themselves she welcomed the `real, additional money’ that has been promised to the social care system for providing free personal care to help support older people living in their own homes. She particularly welcomed “the focus on reablement services to help enhance our preventative systems and increase personal independence. As we confront the problems of our ageing society there should be no let up in either our willingness to debate these issues with politicians and the public alike, or to try to find fair, lasting and affordable solutions.”
Neil Hunt, Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Society:
'Free personal care at home for those with the highest needs is a welcome development but the challenge to implement this proposal will not be easy. Money is needed to make sure people with dementia aren't being pushed into full time care earlier than needed. Quality also needs to be driven up for people to see real benefit. Today's measures will not fix the crumbling system of funding for social care. Problems still loom as the number of people with dementia will double in the next generation and costs triple. We need a robust funding system that provides good care at a fair price for people at every stage of their condition. Dementia is be the biggest health and social care challenge of our generation. It must be made a political priority for every party.'
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund:
'This government deserves credit for at last putting social care funding near the top of the political agenda. The fact that ministers are committed to fundamental change in this critical area is also good news. The problem is these latest proposals seem to have been hastily put together and appear to cut across the options set out in the government’s own Green Paper. After all, the government has only just finished consulting us on the very different proposals set out in that document.
'Trying to fix one bit of the system creates its own difficulties and there has to be a real danger of perverse incentives. Instead, what is needed is a comprehensive solution which deals with all those who need long term care and support. That is why the government is right to support the idea of a National Care Service - for now though it is far from clear how it will work in practice.'