Friday, 19 February 2010

Social care: time to end the postcode lottery

I'm getting increasingly frustrated about the "debate" on the future of social care.  Of course I expect people with different political views to me to disagree on the solution but for goodness sake - the problem is obvious.  We have an aging population, (which is one one level is great - we are living longer) but at the same time it is increasingly likely that families live far from each other.  For example I have one Grandparent in Reading but another in Leicestershire and it happens to be the one in Leicestershire who is in need of care. 

Nationally now isn't a great time to get a non-partisan debate on the issue with a general election coming up.  But it is a good time for charities and campaign groups to get their message across to politicians and for politicians to make proposals.  It's great that Labour, the Lib Dems and charities are meeting today to consider the options.  The Conservatives should have attended too - scare stories about what is being considered are just silly - surely all the options should be discussed.  There are no easy solutions.  There's no getting around the fact that one day we may all need help with every day activities like washing, cooking and using the toilet.  It's not cheap now and it won't be cheap in 10, 20 or 50 years.  It will have to be paid for somehow.

I don't know what the full solution is but I am completely certain that the current system isn't working.  Local councils are making decisions about whether to increase council tax and cut other services or (as West Berkshire have), leave folks with 'risk of requiring hospital care' or 'inability to carry out self care tasks resulting in significant risks to life or well-being' on their own.

The one thing I would say has to be a guiding principle is that there has to be an end to the postcode lottery - if you live in RG31 you should have the same care as if you live in RG2!