Paul Burstow MP writes…We need urgent action on home care

Care in the home Some rights reserved by British Red CrossThe extra £2 billion for health care services announced in the Autumn Statement last week is fantastic news. It is testament to Norman Lamb’s effective and high profile campaigning for urgent funding for the NHS, as well as the hard work behind the scenes by many colleagues making the case.

But in reality these additional funds will not be enough to put the NHS on a sustainable footing. As many of us know only too well, social care is in crisis, and with an ageing population, the existing strain can only become greater. If we don’t address this issue urgently, we risk creating a wholly avoidable additional burden on the NHS which would put its stability entirely out of reach.

Published last week, the report of a Commission I chaired on the home care workforce makes the case for urgent change. As the local authorities’ budget is restraining, publicly funded care is continuously squeezed. The price is paid by the frail and vulnerable in our community, who too often get poor care, and by the care workers they rely on, who get a very raw deal. The Commission heard time and time again that care workers are grossly undervalued. It is a low pay, low skill and low status job – it is not yet seen as a career. This has to change if we want more people to take on these roles, as we are going, increasingly, to rely on them, in the future.

Making care work a career of esteem, where a living wage is paid, staff are trained and recognised as valued key workers who contribute a huge amount to society, will inevitably come at a price. The cost of doing nothing will be even greater.

Let’s not forget that there is already great care and there are thousands of dedicated staff doing fantastic work. There are providers that, against the odds, are delivering excellence and councils that have been smart and innovated their way out of crisis.

However, to ensure that care works for everybody, we need to challenge providers, local authorities and government to do much more to guarantee great care for everyone who needs it. As acknowledged by Jeremy Hunt when I challenged him in the Commons last week, home care has a vital role to play in supporting the work of the NHS. But we need more than words. We need urgent action, before it’s too late.

* 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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6 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '14 - 12:54pm


    As many of us know only too well, social care is in crisis, and with an ageing population, the existing strain can only become greater. If we don’t address this issue urgently, we risk creating a wholly avoidable additional burden on the NHS which would put its stability entirely out of reach.

    Yes, this is one of the biggest demographic factors which is BOUND to push up proportion of GDP spent by the state so long as we assume the state will carry on doing what we have come to accept it does in terms of health and care for those unable to care for themselves. A related demographic factor is people having fewer children, and children often moving a long distance from their parents, so care provided by grow-up children unseen and unpaid for by the state is less likely to happen than in the past.

    So that is why when some politician talks about reducing the proportion of GDP spent by the state, or supposes that if it is increased it means we are marching towards socialism, that politician should be laughed off as a ridiculous person, who has no common sense, and no idea of the reality of modern life.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Dec '14 - 1:43pm

    ‘ As the local authorities’ budget is restraining, publicly funded care is continuously squeezed. The price is paid by the frail and vulnerable in our community, who too often get poor care, and by the care workers they rely on, who get a very raw deal.’

    This goes to the heart of the matter Social care is under-valued and under-resourced and so is local government. The two facts go together. But there is the issue of out-sourcing by local authorities to private private providers who pay pathetically low wages and expect ‘care’ to be given in a fifteen minute slot.

    To my mind, dignity in old age and infirmity means the state providing a service which puts the person at the centre.

    This means that priority must be given to time, to training staff to meet the needs of the those in need and in paying a living wage to care-givers. It means assigning elderly people a small care team who they can get to know, instead of sending new carers at each part of the day – no relationship of trust can be built up that way.

    How about diverting money away from pet government projects like free schools and a digital college in London to social care? That would provide millions of pounds. For example, 9 million has been given by the DfE to Toby Young’s vanity project free school in West London. What a waste of government money.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Dec '14 - 5:59pm

    I’m a big supporter of action on care work. For many this is a necessity. People are struggling financially and additional care duties can put additional strain on them and their family.

    Thanks Paul Burstow.

  • Good to see the issue being highlighted.

    Big changes are needed though.

    Adult social care departments are in my experience little more than commissioning bodies who contract out ‘services’.

    They don’t want to know if you raise problems with the quality of the care provided.

    I fought for years to get improvements in my locality but made little progress because the powers that be just went into defence mode rather than deal with the problem.

  • Neil Sandison 13th Dec '14 - 10:26am

    If you want good local services for the elderly and the vunerable then it has to be paid for .No silly gimmicks or one off pre – election funding pots but an ongoing revenue stream that is reliable .This means additional council tax bands with the funding redistributed under the Barnet or its successor formula.A mansion tax with a purpose that those paying it will understand and will benefit from in their later years.

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