Today I attended the Local Government Association’s national board meeting on Health and Social Care. Along with 6 other Labour councillors from around the country my role is to put forward Labour’s agenda for health and social care on a cross-party board which is currently chaired by a Conservative. Full details of my report back are here
The main divide however is between the Conservative government’s short-sighted and ideological approach which pays only lip service to local communities, family carers and the workforce’s contribution.
Jackie Dyle MP, Under Secretary of State for Care and Mental Health, attended. It was very telling that many of the issues raised with her were around housing, and the impact that government policy has on the ability of local communities to build council housing – including the specialist housing we have worked so hard to get a limited amount of in Reading – and to ensure that in general planning policy takes into account local needs, such as older people and the increasing number of young people with physical and learning disabilities. In my experience her colleague Alok Sharma has no understanding of this and he will need to be heavily lobbied to take any action (one reason I set up
the bedroom tax petition).
The board has agreed a range of priorities but hey can be summarised by lobbying for proper funding of the sector, ensuring funding is going to the right place and an equal seat at the table for local government in this debate.
I pushed the importance of planning for recruitment and retention of the workforce, and
emphasised the need to consider options like the UNISON Ethical Care Charter to raise the status of home care. This is going to be of increasing importance, especially with the government’s reckless approach to Brexit, and the impact this will have on areas of the country, like Reading, London and the South East as a whole that rely on immigrant workers.
My conclusion was that there remains agreement outside of a small enclave of Tory MPs that social care and public health need funding, and help with recruitment, and we should be focusing on helping people live good lives – what social care calls wellbeing and health calls ‘prevention’. However, I believe that there is no prospect that the government will grasp the nettle on this. We will see how the Green Paper process develops, and along with Labour comrades I’ll be getting involved but in the
meantime we should look out for short term cuts that damage communities alongside the blame being shifted to local NHS trusts and councils when pressure builds this winter.
being shifted to local NHS trusts and councils when pressure builds this winter.