The Party has the strongest foothold in an issue that is permeated by talk of ‘cross party consensus’ (although, to date, the rhetoric has led to precious little real agreement), with both Ministers for Social Care under the Coalition – and probably the biggest voices – being Lib Dems, in Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb.
As such, the Party has had a huge role to play in pushing social care to the top of the political agenda – including as a central part of the recent Mid-term Review. I‘m sure I’m not the only Lib Dem who considers social care reform to be the biggest social policy challenge facing the country and the Coalition.
To date the political debate from all parties has focused on reforming the system for older people. This is completely understandable, given the increasingly stark challenges of our aging population. This is something that I know quite a bit about both from first-hand experience and my work on the Lords Select Committee on Public Services and Demography which is looking at how well prepared we are as a country for addressing this challenge. However, it is often never aired that one third of social care users are working age disabled people – and the social care crisis is critical for them too.
Yesterday saw the launch of The Other Care Crisis, a report launched by five leading disability charities which aims to throw light on what social care reform means for working age disabled people.
The findings of the report are stark:
· 40% of disabled people do not get enough social care support to meet basic needs including eating, washing, dressing or getting out the house.
· 105,000 disabled people risk missing out on basic support for their day-to-day lives.
· There is a £1.2billion funding gap in social care support for disabled people under the age of 64.
Many proposals for reforming the system, as set out in the draft Care and Support Bill and the accompanying White Paper, are to be welcomed, particularly the introduction of a National Eligibility Threshold to end the post code lottery in care.
This reform is set to be the most important for working age disabled people. Yet, if the findings of this latest report are heeded, sustainable funding must underpin the social care reform for working age disabled people.
It is this funding that will dictate whether they get the care they need to get out of bed, wash, eat and live fulfilling lives within their community.
For the Liberal Democrats, putting social care on a sustainable footing would be a bold and lasting political legacy – and working age disabled people need to be at the heart of that debate.
* Claire Tyler, Baroness Tyler of Enfield, has been in the House of Lords since 2011, taking an active role in the areas of health and social care, welfare reform, social mobility, well-being, children and family policy, machinery of government and the voluntary sector. She is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson in the Lords on Mental Health.