In July 2019 the Prime Minister said that he had an ‘oven ready’ plan to for a sustainable social care plan. From then, to date, two million requests from disabled adults and the elderly (including those with dementia) have been turned down for social care, due to lack of funding. So, it’s good news that Boris Johnson is expected to reveal his plans to solve the social care crisis this week. But it can only be funded by finding some money from somewhere, including potential tax rises or increased National Insurance contributions, the latter of which would go against the last Conservative Party manifesto and so is opposed by some Conservative MPs.. It is a defining moment for the Government and for our country. It echoes the sentiments the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2017 Lent Book entitled, ‘Dethroning Mammon, Making Money Serve Grace.’
At the start of the Covid pandemic, (May 2020) Frank Knight warned that 6,500 care homes, totalling 140,000 beds, were at risk of closure over the next five years because of the lack of investment by successive governments into the U.K.’s healthcare sector.
And the Alzheimer’s Society says that in just 14 years’ time the gulf between demand, that is people needing care, and care home beds available, will be over 100,000. Also, attracting and retaining staff is an issue because of low wages and a reduced workforce. Domiciliary care providers are unable to take on hospital patients ready for discharge and those who need help in the community because they do not have enough staff.
Funding social care
Funding social care is a concern for everyone. It’s talked about in terms of the older generation, though in fact half the budget is spent on younger adults with disabilities, and the other on elderly care. Most people expect to live longer than their parents, and a recent poll shows that most anticipate the need for care in old age. A poll last week by Redfield & Wilton Strategies showed that 64 per cent of voters said they would be willing to pay 1p more in national insurance so the Government could spend more on social care. Just 22 per cent said no and 14 per cent said they did not know. Justice Secretary, Richard Buckland said that. “All of us at some stage are going to be elderly, therefore this is an inter-generational issue and that means that all of us have a responsibility to shoulder that burden." He points out that when the NHS was set up, everyone, young and old, contributed through their National Insurance payments, knowing that not everyone would need treatment.
Behind the statistics and the arguments are real human tragedies taking place behind closed doors. It has a personal impact for me – next week I am taking a couple that I’ve known for years into one of our care homes for respite care. He is 90, she is 87. He has dementia and she is waiting for a heart operation. They’ve been pastors and evangelists all their lives and haven’t built up financial capital, as many working in the Kingdom are not able to do. They can just about afford respite care. The question they are facing is ‘what about the future?’ As dementia develops the person often needs specialist, 24-hour, round-the-clock care. How will my friend, and thousands like her, be able to cope?
Write to your MP
This is a time for prayer, and for asking your MP to fund social care properly. You can find his or her contact details here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP. You don’t need to be eloquent or follow a template letter, just say, "Please fund social care.’
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Dr Eunice Burton, 91, lives at our housing scheme in Great Finborough, Suffolk. Pursuing a career in medicine when few women did, she specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology and surgery