Monday, 30 April 2012

Politicians Seem Clueless About Social Care

It seems evident that politicians do not know what to do about social care. The predominant method over the last few years appears to be simply to avoid doing anything substantial by having endless consultations and a constant tinkering around the edges (e.g. we are on the third regulator since 2003). It is not a political party specific phenomenon as all three main parties seem to be struck by the same malaise.

But why? Political parties are, generally, very sure of the best ways to do things (whether the public agree with them or not) and will forcefully set out their agenda to improve aspects of public policy for the greater good. Education, Welfare & Health, for example, have all been dealt with by the current Government and dealt with early in the terms of previous administrations yet social care has, and continues to be, something that eludes substantive action.

One of the reasons for this is, simplistically, the time factor. At the inception of the ‘welfare state’ post World War Two social care was a small consideration to those in power. After all in 1950 life expectancy was around 68, therefore those who drew from the state pension scheme aged 65 were only expected to draw on the state for three years or so. Similarly the impact of older people on the National Health Service was much more limited. In addition those with physical and learning disabilities were not expected to have much impact on the state because of their poor life expectancy.

So, in essence, social policy has largely focused on the under 65 population and political parties have, and continue to, have that as their primary focus.

Unfortunately for them the real world has crept up on them and now they seem at a loss how to respond.

Life expectancy today is around 79 years of age and rising. The life expectancy of people with disabilities has risen even more dramatically and we now have a greater need to support and care for people with age related illnesses, diseases such as dementia and provide suitable care and support for people with disabilities to meet their needs as they age.

In fact figures suggest that the UK has (or will soon have) more people over the age of 65 than under 16. Something that politicians have not quite grasped yet and something society has not yet come to terms with, as, it seems, we need to gear our society towards the needs of older people.

Society has changed and social policy needs to change with it but all politicians seem to be clueless in how to achieve this and afraid to make bold policy decisions. Now, obviously they are afraid that such boldness may cost them precious votes but until bold measures are taken, and social care bought to the fore of social policy the people who will suffer are the people who most need societies help.