So a new year is upon us, one which shows every sign of being an even more momentous for Government disability policy than 2011. Last year we saw the Government launch a huge wave of legislation and consultation that affected people with disabilities or mental health needs. The healthcare reforms were the most high profile and controversial, but wide-ranging welfare reform and the Law Commission’s report on the legal rights of people with disabilities were also very significant, with some positive aspects and some more worrying ones.
Perhaps the most significant and positive development in 2011, however, was the Government’s decision to commission economist Andrew Dilnot to look at how to fundamentally reform funding for social care in the UK. This couldn’t be more important: the current system is buckling under the weight of increased demand and limited resources.
Although Dilnot’s recommendations, launched in the summer, won’t single handedly do enough to transform social care for the better – and there was a real concern that more and more people with “mild” or “moderate” needs would miss out on any support at all – they are an essential start. The capping of care costs, the measures to tackle postcode lotteries and the recommendation of substantial new funding to be injected into the system are all vital first steps if we are to have a social care system we can be proud of.
That’s why all eyes will be on the social care White Paper due to be released in the next few months. A White Paper which properly considers the Dilnot recommendations and lays the foundations for a well funded and world class social care system could make 2012 a good year for the millions who rely on some form of support or care.
It’s up to all of us to urge our political representatives in all the political parties to co-operate and make sure this is the result we end up with. We’ll be doing our bit. Next week we’ll be releasing a report which will give the perspectives of the people we support on what difference support makes to their lives. We hope it will be a positive contribution to this critical debate. Happy New Year, everyone.
Jaime Gill, head of press and public affairs, United Response