United Response at Conservative Party Confererence 2016The message that the Conservative Party carefully and successfully crafted during their annual party conference this week, was one of unity of purpose and a shift towards “a new centre ground”. Theresa May’s new Government will be pleased with the narrative which the media is now reporting following a summer of uncertainty post Brexit.

In her speech yesterday the Prime Minister pledged to use the power of government to "restore fairness" in Britain and spread prosperity more widely. Mrs May said her vision was of a country "where everyone plays by the same rules and where every single person, regardless of their background or that of their parents, is given the chance to be all they want to be".

Although the Prime Minister’s speech did not mention disabled people or social care, such policy certainly alludes to the promotion of social fairness.


Solutions for social care need to be fair


It is widely acknowledged now, by MPs of all parties, that social care is in crisis and heading rapidly towards catastrophe because of inadequate funding. People in the care sector are worried that without investment and innovation, support for elderly and disabled people will move backwards rather than follow the aspirations set out in the Care Act.

The former Chancellor’s idea to pass the bill for social care to local authorities, without giving them the necessary mechanisms to fully fund support, has been recognised by cross-party Parliamentary committees as inadequate.

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, who also has overall responsibility for social care, spoke in his conference speech of joining up the health and social care systems to improve delivery. But he didn’t go into detail. Instead the Health Secretary concentrated on his support, and on Government reforms for the health service. The NHS is a vote winner. People know what it is and they are willing to pay for it.

On the other hand, social care and how to properly fund it, is a conundrum that politicians from all parties have consistently failed to solve.

Solutions to this problem need to be fair. Some people with a learning disability can live their lives as fully engaged with society as anybody else; provided that good, properly funded support gives them the right start in life to achieve their full potential. Other people may have complex support needs, requiring very high levels of support, throughout the whole of their lives. Yet these people too have the right to full lives in their local community. In the Care Act, robust legislation is in place to bring this about. But it cannot happen without new ideas to raise and deliver targeted investment in adult social care.


“Specific targeted investment” is needed


In the short to medium term, we hope that the “specific targeted investment” which Chancellor Philip Hammond spoke about this week, will include announcements within his Autumn Statement to help guarantee local authority funding shortfalls, and building of new infrastructure for the Transforming Care agenda.

This includes money for councils to properly fund adult social care, for them to be able to fund rises in the National Living Wage and to make social care workers as valued as their counterparts working in the NHS. It includes making sure that if councils are responsible for topping up supported housing benefit, then they actually have the funding and mechanisms to do this going forward.


We need a national conversation about the cost of social care


In the longer term, what is badly needed is a national conversation between MPs, political parties and the British public; to talk about the cost of social care, why it is so important and how it should be funded in a sustainable way for the future.

Our Campaigns team engaged effectively with the Government on all these issues during Conservative Party Conference. Ahead of the Autumn Statement we, and others we campaign with will be sending a detailed submission to the Chancellor, in the hope that fiscal plans target and include the most vulnerable people in society.

Mrs May labelled her premiership yesterday as; “a once in a generation chance to change the direction for good.” It is also perhaps a unique opportunity for the Government to address the social care problem for the longer term, and to actually solve it.

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