While the phone hacking/Murdoch empire saga continues and is still making the headlines there are a number of things of greater long term importance happening under the radar (yes I know the future of the media is very important). Firstly the speculation has already started about low growth or even a shrinking of the UK economy in the last quarter – having that following a net 0% growth in the previous 6 months is very worrying.
More positively I think it’s clear there is a real opportunity for reform of adult social care to get under way. Anyone who is or has family in need of support whether due to age or disability knows that currently we have a postcode lottery and funding that is coming under increased pressure not just due to the government’s cuts but also because of the increasing need (council staff call this demand pressure…).
Labour’s council administration has signed the cross-party declaration from the Local Government Association (LGA) calling for action. It’s a real opportunity to grasp this issue by the horns. The full text of the letter is below:
Time to act: reforming adult social care
The fact that more and more people are living longer in old age or with a disability is something we should all celebrate. The reality that those additional years can often feel more of a burden than a joy is something we can help rectify. And we must do so now.
For too long we have toyed with adult social care reform. Different parts of the system have been tinkered with but there has been no fundamental reworking of the foundations. That approach has, just about, sustained the system and the countless thousands of people who rely on it. But today we face the stark reality that major change is needed if we are to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding older population that, quite rightly, has higher expectations of the services and support it receives.
Unlike with previous attempts to reform care and support, the opportunity before us today sees an optimum alignment of conditions for lasting, positive change. First, we have political commitment at a national level with the Government’s ‘Vision for adult social care: capable communities and active citizens’, and the recent statement from the Leader of the Labour Party making a clear offer of cross-party talks to consider the best way forward. Second, through the work of the Law Commission, we have an outlook of consolidated legislation and a simpler legal framework. And third, and perhaps most important, with the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission, we have realistic options for future funding of care and support.
With these three pillars in place we have the best chance to meaningfully reshape care and support for the future. This is the best opportunity for reform in a generation, and it is for the next generation that we must act now. We know that it will be impossible to design a system where everyone agrees on the detail and specifics, but these differences must be put aside and seen as secondary to the bigger prize of securing a care and support system that is fit for the twenty first century.
Maintaining a focus on this ultimate goal will require political consensus. And political momentum at a national and local level is what will drive this consensus forward. This declaration is a clear signal from local government – of all parties – that we are ready to play our part. We have a strong and proud history in adult social care and play a key role in meeting the needs of our communities. We remain committed to providing the highest quality services and support to ensure adults of all ages have the opportunity to live independent, fulfilling lives, throughout their lives.
The publication of the Dilnot Commission’s report must be seen as the start of the next phase of reform – moving from independent inquiry to political debate. Local government is ready to work with central government on this crucial agenda and we urge you not to let another opportunity pass by. We urge you to forge a national consensus in line with the local one we are building. It is time to act.
As signatories to this declaration we are calling for:
§ cross-party recognition that it is time to act, and cross-party support for our Early Day Motion on care and support reform
§ cross-party consensus to deliver the meaningful reform that is needed