Obsessed with Brexit, they have repeatedly ignored the challenge of social care and kicked it into the long grass. A long-delayed green paper on social care that was promised for June has yet again failed to materialise, along with the one they promised on social housing. Don’t get me started on that as well!
But local government, so used to picking up the pieces of central government failure, doesn’t think this crisis can be ignored any longer. We cannot allow this to continue. This week the cross-party Local Government Association has filled the vacuum left by a failing Tory government and published our own green paper on social care to kick start the honest and open debate we need about the care vulnerable people should receive and how it should be paid for. If the government isn’t willing to lead this debate then we will.
It is an ambitious and wide-ranging public consultation that sets out how the system can be improved and made more sustainable. It also highlights the sometimes radical options that need to be considered to tackle the funding crisis facing adult social care head-on.
LGA figures estimate that there will be a funding gap of almost £8bn by 2025. This makes it an even more urgent issue for the government to address – all the work we have seen in the last few years could be undone if this issue isn’t sorted.
Many of us will come into contact with the social care system at some point in our lives, be that because a loved one needs social care or because we need social care ourselves. Recent polling shows that the public and politicians support greater funding for social care. There is increasing consensus that a long-term solution is needed in terms of funding, and an increasing appetite to make the system fairer. To date our party has lead this debate we were the only party that had a clear and costed proposal for social care and health funding in our manifesto at the last election – which I am delighted is included as part of the consultation.
It is not enough just to fund the same model of care, which tries to patch people up when they are already in need of care and support. Councils and their partners in the NHS and community organisations want to develop community-based preventative support, linked into wider services such as housing, public health, leisure and recreation to keep people well and independent for as long as possible. And Liberal Democrat led Councils across the country from Sutton to Cumbria, Bedford to Cornwall our Councils are leading the way.
I would encourage everyone, regardless of whether you or your loved ones have needed social care or not, to read the LGA green paper and to respond to the consultation with your thoughts. You can do so here.
* Councillor Howard Sykes MBE is the Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the Local Government Association. The LGA is a politically-led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of 415 councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government.