Paul Burstow MP writes…My two suggestions to improve the Care Bill

Knowing that you will receive the best care available is of critical importance to everyone who finds themselves needing support from social care services. This is why when I was Care Minister, I was passionate about making that a reality – and I still am. As Minister I published the Care Bill, overhauling decades of complex, arcane and out of date legislation to set out a social care system fit for the twenty first century.

The Care Bill, which I subsequently scrutinised as Chair of the Joint Committee on the Bill, is a piece of legislation I – and Liberal Democrats – should be truly proud of. For the first time, it explicitly puts wellbeing on the statute as the organising principle of social care, it delivers new rights for carers, new rights and protections for individuals and places a statutory duty on local authorities to work towards prevention.

But for most people who are lucky enough not to have needed it, their understanding of social care is hazy at best. Simply put, social care is the help you may receive when illness, disability or old age makes simple day to day activities a struggle. From helping people to get dressed in the morning, to helping with preparing and eating a meal, washing or providing activities at a day centre, social care can be vital. But unfortunately, unlike the NHS, it’s not free. Instead, your local authority will do an assessment, decide whether your needs meet their eligibility criteria, and then you will have a further assessment to decide how much you can afford to pay towards your care

The Care Bill will face its final stages in parliament this week. It will bring massive improvements, including a cap on care costs and a new national eligibility criteria. But for me there is still one thing missing, and that’s a government commitment to ensure that the social care system is properly funded. Research by Age UK shows that spending since 2010/11 has reduced by almost £769 million, a fall of around 10%.

That’s is why I have worked with the Local Government Authority, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Care and Support Alliance to table a new clause to the Bill. This calls for an annual report to be written by the LGA, ADASS and the Department of Health to assess whether the system has enough money to work as intended and ensure that the wellbeing of those who need care is really being recognised.

I am also calling for a 20 years forward look every five years of the trends in demand for care and health and the associated costs to make sure that the NHS, public health and social care are all adequately and equitably funded.  Such a whole system approach to reviewing the funding needs is essential and long overdue.

Sadly, the reality that we must all admit to is that social care has been badly underfunded for decades, and these reforms will fail if we don’t ensure that there’s enough money to deliver their transformative potential for those who desperately need it.

* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton and Cheam and was the MP until the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March.

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3 Comments

  • And yet you chose not to force a vote & when Labour’s Jamie Reed pushed your amendment to the vote, you voted against !

    Clause 119 is something this govt will find extremely hard to defend when a TSA decides to close a non-failing hospital in favour of keeping another open, as in Lewisham.

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