Friday, 14 December 2012

Social Care: A Culture of Unimportance

The Government’s Winterbourne View final report talks of a ‘culture of abuse’ being allowed to flourish within the establishment. This is nothing new there have been plenty of cases where this has happened and many commentators have mentioned this, we have periodic exposes of abusive culture within social care settings followed by a brief blustering of politicians yet these things keep happening.

The real issue that needs to be addressed in adult social care is the culture of unimportance that pervades society when it comes to the needs of the elderly and disabled in the country.
The Winterbourne report highlights this culture of unimportance. There is no Prime Ministerial forward promising whole Government action, there is not even a signature from the Cabinet Minister for Health. This should not distract from many of the good proposals in the report yet it, in terms of promoting social care as a national important area of policy it fails.

This is, obviously, only the latest in the line of things were the Government continues to cultivate the culture of unimportance around adult social care. The Dilnot Commission , set up as part of the coalition agreement,  submitted its final report in July 2011 and, since then, has largely been scrupulously avoided aside from the odd burst of political gusto when it seemed convenient. In the meantime the reality for many older people remains the same, sell your house to pay for your care.

Naturally Dilnot is itself a product of the culture of unimportance. The Commission was set up to tackle only how care is paid for, what has not been tackled is the ever tightening eligibility criteria for state support with care nor has the needs of other vulnerable adults, such as those with learning disabilities, had any consideration.

The social care culture of unimportance cannot just be ascribed to this Government, the previous Labour Government prevaricated and delayed taking action on social care producing a White Paper on 30 March 2010 just weeks before an inevitable General Election, and even then their ideas where merely a tinkering of what already existed rather than wholesale reform.  

The culture of unimportance that is allowed to flourish at Westminster inevitably and naturally trickles down to the rest of society. Undoubtedly if many average people in the street were to be asked what has been the most important issue discussed at Westminster this week the answer, inevitably, will be that of same sex marriage. While that is important in its own right surely the needs of the most vulnerable in society should take precedence and, although I don’t know the exact numbers, I suspect that the issue of same sex marriage will have a direct impact on far fewer members of the population than social care reform would.

The culture of unimportance MUST end and social care must take its rightful place alongside the other major areas of social policy. As society continues to age the implications for social care are significant, more and more people will need social care services and it is societies duty to ensure those needs are met.

Personally I feel it is obviously right that social care should have its own Cabinet Minister and Department for Social Care and have started a e-petition to this effect (click here to sign) as I believe that this will be a start to raising the importance of social care nationally. Yet beyond this we do need those in charge now to stop treating social care as a side issue to other areas of social policy and start treating social care with the importance it needs in order to ensure the well-being of the millions who need social care services.