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The government is still failing the elderly


Political Studies Association, Warwick University, care commission report, government still failing the elderlyThe UK’s social care system, says report, is ‘unsustainable and in crisis’.

The Political Studies Association (PSA) Research Commission on Care was established in response to the intensifying crisis that is playing out in the provision of care for older people and the failure of successive governments to acknowledge this crisis – and to take action.

Its report, Towards a New Deal For Care and Carers, was launched recently in the House of Lords.

The Commission was chaired by Professor Shirin Rai from the University of Warwick, and supported by the University of Warwick, the Women’s Budget Group and the Fawcett Society.

And as its Executive Summary says:

The Commissioners found that the social care system as it stands is unsustainable and in crisis.

Sustained under-funding, exacerbated by austerity policies over the last decade and a dysfunctional care system, has caused this crisis. A lack of political will to solve it has perpetuated it.

But the problem is not going away.

Instead it is growing as our population ages and more people face older age with chronic ill health and multiple conditions.

The number of people who are living with unmet care needs has increased and yet the amount spent on the care of older people has fallen in real terms.

Gendered norms of caring mean that there is an assumption that women will step in to provide care and compensate for the services that the state is failing to provide.

But looking ahead we face a shortage of both paid and unpaid carers.

Women are more active than ever in the formal labour market. Their paid work will become increasingly difficult to reconcile with unpaid caring responsibilities.

Stricter migration regimes, which look likely to be implemented over the coming years, threaten the supply of workers in the formal care sector.

The system, as it currently stands, is failing care recipients.

They often do not get what they need and feel they must be grateful for what they do get.

At best the system is functioning to give people what is needed to exist and is far from providing a personalised care service focused on raising their capabilities and helping them feel cared for.

It is also a one size fits all system and does not respond to the needs of particular groups such as BAME and LGBTQI people.

The deficiencies of the care system directly increase costs elsewhere.

These deficiencies result in preventable hospital admissions, causing queues in A&E and cancelled operations, and force the NHS to hold patients who no longer need medical care in wards because they do not have the support to go home.

Finally, those who provide care are ill-served by the system.

Underfunding and the involvement of the private sector means tight budgets must be stretched if a profit is to be produced.

Often this occurs at the expense of care workers and those they care for, and leaves provision insecure if providers cannot sustain their business model. Low pay, poor working conditions and negligible career prospects are endemic in the sector.

This cannot be a basis for good quality and sustainable care.

And as outlined in chapter 3 and 4, there is pressure on paid care workers and unpaid carers which adversely affects their ability to look after themselves and may prevent them supporting other dependents, including children.

These pressures result in over two million unpaid carers dropping out of the labour market (Carers UK 2013). Women also find it difficult to return to work, which contributes to a persistent gender gap in earning and pensions.

Why isn’t social care a political priority?

Despite repeated attempts in the past few years, resolving our care crisis is not a political priority. The Commission suggests this is the result of a number of interwoven factors:

1 – The size of the problem is seen by many as ‘too big’ to tackle.

There is a view that it is financially unaffordable to provide good quality care for all who need it, instead of a recognition that a failing care system is costly in social and economic terms.

2 – The assumption that ‘someone will step in’ to keep the system going and, more specifically, that women will step in to do unpaid caring or work, particularly if they are migrants, or unemployed, for low pay and under poor conditions.

3 – The lack of concern about, and value placed on, the lives of older people and carers. Despite talk of the ‘grey vote’ older peoples’ concerns are overlooked through a lack of cross-party political consensus on a way forward.

4 – The assumption that ‘anyone can care’ leads to caring being regarded as low status and unskilled work, not requiring training and continuous professional development.

Care must be central to policy decision-making in order to ensure that society is able to provide for its most vulnerable.

To this end, the Commission recommends:

1 – Establishing a national care service

2 – Investing in the social care infrastructure

3 – Professionalise and support the care workforce and

4 – Recognition and support for all unpaid carers

To read the full report click here.

Please send a link to this report to your MP and ask what steps they are going to take to solve this problem.

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