On Monday, I spoke in the Queen’s Speech debate on Health and Social care to question the Government’s Care Bill. What is clear following the debate is that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, doesn’t recognise the detrimental effects his government’s cuts are having upon our National Health Service and the quality of care people are receiving.
The Bill fails to address the growing funding gap in our social care provision and the additional pressure this is putting on local services. The Government’s proposals will do nothing to close the funding gap or to help the thousands of people who are already suffering with spiralling living costs and increases to home care costs.
I also raised my concerns about the lack of support in the Bill for indentifying and supporting young carers. This is just one of the many areas that need to be addressed as the Bill makes its way through the House, and I hope the Government will work with Labour on these issues.
My full speech is below and the full debate can be read here:
“My hon. Friend Paul Blomfield made a powerful case against the influence of the tobacco companies and their lobbying of this Government, and the utter ineffectiveness of the Prime Minister in standing up to them. I am also pleased to follow Mr Ward, who made an impassioned plea on behalf of his constituents and others. He demonstrated the need for proper local authority funding to support care services, and I will address that later in my speech.
I think it is true to say that all independent commentators are noting that the Gracious Speech was very thin and did not rise to the many challenges facing this country, particularly the need for economic growth. I was therefore concerned to hear speech after speech in which Conservative Members talked only about Europe in a very obsessive way, without any recognition of the fact that constituencies such as mine that are desperately in need of economic growth rely on our relationship with Europe. Our region exports the most from this country, and a huge proportion of our exports are to European countries. We need
those exports to grow, not to be damaged by the rhetoric on Europe that we hear day after day from the Government and Conservative Members.
I was also concerned when I listened to the Secretary of State for Health and heard how complacent he is about the state of the NHS. He showed no recognition at all of the anxiety of many of my constituents about what sort of health service we are going to end up with in a couple of months’ time and whether it will be able to meet their most basic needs. He showed no awareness at all of the challenges facing A and E departments right across the country, including my own in Durham. I am not criticising the staff, who struggle against the odds to provide the best care. This is happening because the Government are not looking at how to use the resources effectively and how to channel them towards under pressure A and E departments.
It would be extraordinary if we did not have a Bill on care in this Queen’s Speech given the clamour for it from carers, carers’ organisations, other agencies, cross-party commissions, and cross-party groups, and some of the work that Labour did when in government. The question remains, however: is the Bill up to the job of dealing with the problems facing our care system, which need to be addressed urgently because, as we all know, it is in danger of falling into crisis. The House of Commons Library has produced research showing that 10 million people in the UK are over 65 and that by 2030 the number is projected to rise to 15.5 million. Many of these additional older people will have care needs, putting increasing pressure on our care system. At the same time, more funds are being stripped from social care. The £500 million funding gap in our social care provision is still growing and, as Age UK has made clear, this is having a hugely detrimental impact on the care received by our elderly people. Age UK states that
“the widening funding gap has led to a reduction in service provision, increasing charges levied by councils for their services and less older people receiving the support they need.”
It further says:
“Every older person using local authority care services is now being charged £150 per year more in real terms in 2010-11 than in 2009-10, and £360 more than 2008-09”.
The situation is expected to get worse still. Due to the massive cuts faced by local government, by 2013-14 local authorities will have reduced their expenditure on adult social care by £2.7 billion—a massive 18% reduction when demand is increasing all the time. Clearly, this is not sustainable.
The Bill will do nothing to close the growing funding gap or to help the thousands of people who are already suffering with spiralling living costs and increases to home care costs. These people find themselves passed between care providers, often without any continuity of service. We will all have heard about such experiences in our constituency surgeries. Many people are ending up in hospital unnecessarily because they are not getting the care they need at home. Similarly, the Government’s earlier decision to ignore Dilnot and the experts who recommended a maximum cap of £35,000 and set it at £72,000 plus accommodation costs will not help many of my constituents, particularly those on lower or middle incomes.
Where the Bill might make some meaningful progress is with regard to improved rights and support for carers, but, as several hon. Members have said, there are huge
gaps, particularly in identification of and support for young carers. That will need to be addressed as the Bill makes its way through the House. More needs to be done to support the various organisations that help carers. I work with a number of voluntary sector bodies in my local communities, and they are very worried that they will go out of business because they are not able to get enough resources to keep going.
Carers UK has set out some tests of this Bill. It says that it needs to be underpinned by appropriate funding, that it must promote the well-being and dignity of all our elderly residents, that it must ensure that independent advice is available to people and that there are appropriate advocacy services, that it should make sure that the criteria for people to get support are clear and transparent —it is no good just having assessments; they have to produce something in the form of appropriate levels of care—and that it must guarantee continuity of service and portability in whatever care support is given. I hope that as the Bill goes through the House it will be tested on those criteria.”