Over the last two weeks we
have had more than our fair share of announcements, counter announcements,
policy positing, high drama and undisguised broadsides. However, now the party
is over – there is an opportunity to look at what was said at both the Labour
and Conservative party conferences and see what they might mean for social
In Liverpool, there was a
strong acknowledgement in the leader’s speech of the problems facing social
care, talking of “…..the scandal of the
Tories’ £6 billion cuts to social care, leaving 400,000 fewer older people
receiving care. Too many of our older people condemned to live alone and
isolated, often ending up at A&E through neglect, then unable to leave hospital
because it’s not safe for them.”
In connection with this
narrative, there was a very welcome media played focus on the significant
reduction in community services – particularly
day centres – which recognised their central role in combatting social
isolation and sustaining a preventative independent based provision within
Then in John McDonnells
speech, some further indication of how Labour in power might address some of
the workforce challenges, announcing promises to:
- Ban zero hours
- Setting a real living
wage of £10 an hour.
- Determining wages by
sectoral collective bargaining.
In his platform speech, John
McDonnell returned to key elements of last years’ manifesto, talking once more
about nationalisation, and bringing water, energy, Royal Mail and rail into
public ownership. However, there was no specific mention of the pathway towards
a national care service. That said, he has launched a large-scale consultation
on democracy in our public services. Whilst it does not specify particular
industries, it does look at what different models of public ownership are being
considered, and how models such as cooperatives and not for profit
organisations are a key part of ensuring that public services are accountable
to the communities that they serve.
The conservative party
conference did include specific announcements related to social care, most
notably the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care promised an in year
funding boost of £240m for social care- aimed once again at facilitating rapid
discharge from hospital. However, this welcome funding pot aside, the narrative
around the NHS continued to dominate all discussions; the early championing of
social care by Matt Hancock seems to be less visible as the months go by. In
his conference speech, albeit starting from a very personal NHS orientated premise,
his first foray into referring to social care went something like this “Social care is under pressure too. I know
the pressures and we’re going to address them because I want us to make the NHS
the best health service in the world”.
He then went on to say:
“But I want to help the NHS through this winter too…..And I can announce
that today I am making an extra £240 million available to pay for social care
packages this winter to support our NHS. We’ll use this money to get people who
don’t need to be in hospital……but do need care…… back home……back into their
communities……so we can free up those vital hospital beds…… and help people who
really need it, get the hospital care they deserve.”
Well…. There is a definite
sense of where the priority lies….
Little bit later in the speech
he gets back onto social care
“We need reforms of social care too, to make it sustainable for the long
term….Reform of social care is long overdue…… and we’ll publish a paper later
this year setting out the progress we can make to give all people confidence
and dignity in old age. And of course, we can’t do any of these reforms without
Sorry GPs, but what about the number
one priority, the workforce? Where is the recognition of the pressure of the
workforce in social care? Where is your focus on priority number two, how are
we tackling the need for wholescale investment in technology in social care?
And I have to say it’s
beginning to look a lot like the third priority of prevention actually meant
prevention of pressure on the NHS – not prevention supporting long-term independence
of people by effective social care interventions.
Whilst I know there is only so
much one can pack into a speech, to give the two parts of your brief something
more akin to shared billing would enhance confidence. Don’t forget social care
is good for people; society and the economy. It is insulting to the 1.6 million
people who work in it, and the millions who receive support from it, for it to
be represented primarily as a prop for the much-loved NHS.
As for the Green Paper, the
headline announcement on that appeared to be from the side, with Damian Green
publicly predicting that any proposed funding solution would not be implemented
until 2022 – referencing lack of parliamentary time.
Recognising the role of social housing
On a more positive note, the
announcement by the PM that the cap on the Housing Revenue Account would be
lifted signified another important recognition of the role of social housing in
addressing key community issues. As localised commissioning strategies adapt to
the ‘new normal’ of significant restrictions on localised funding, which we
know (budget announcements aside) will reduce further in 2019-20, the drive to
incorporate greater extra care and sheltered/supported housing in response to
their greater capacity to build will be strong.
The potential for local plans
to highlight both older peoples housing, and their responsibilities in relation
to Transforming Care will make for some interesting local decisions. Council
house building has fallen dramatically over the last 30 years, hitting an all-time
low of only 50
properties being developed in 2000. Last year saw this figure rise to 3000.
I think we will need to look
to those councils who have already started to build again to see some early
indications of whether this new build potential might enable a focus on both
older and disabled communities and how they will engage in partnership with
care provision to make these viable options for sustaining independent living.
Austerity is over – really?
The statement that austerity
was ended raised quite a cheer in the Conservative Party Conference audience;
however, I think for many in care, they will relate to this astute article by
Mike Padgham in the Yorkshire Post – ‘If
Austerity is over, that’s news to carers’.
Festival of Great Britain
Finally, I was interested to
hear the ‘rousing’ element of the PM’s speech –that once again – the notion of year-long
festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to signify regeneration and
renewal was on the cards.
I mention this in the context
of social care; the timing should be of great interest to those working in
older peoples services because of the potential tie in with the Industrial
Strategy focus on Healthy Ageing.
The long awaited prospectus
for the Healthy Ageing Grand Challenge (due initially in May and now planned
for October) will clarify how plans to stimulate innovation around enhancing
quality of older life are to be addressed. The £98m fund will want to see
significant transformation over a two-year period; I will certainly be seeking
to see if the outcomes of this can reinforce the Industrial Strategy ambition
and be used to showcase the UK as a leading global force in ageing.
If there is a ‘festival site’
option, then we should be arguing for the whole site to be earmarked a truly
integrated village community that celebrates our learning about
intergenerational working, community assets and village clusters of care services.
This would ensure the legacy of any such Expo continues to expand our
understanding of how we can really create a built environment for healthy ageing
at the scale that our demography demands.
And on a final note, I am sure
the closing speech of the Conservative party conference will have given us all
something to think about. For me, I noted the need to update my Playlist for
Life; Dancing Queen has, I’m afraid, lost it’s sheen. But thankfully there are
plenty more camp classics out there to keep me happy into later life….