Punish these guilty parliamentarians!

Posted on September 3rd, by geoff in Caring Times, CT blog. 3 comments

By guest blogger JEF SMITH

Eighty-four per cent of Members of Parliament agree that local authorities should get additional funding for social care. Great news! At least that’s how it was greeted by the Local Government Association (LGA) which commissioned the survey. ‘The overwhelming majority’, ’far reaching cross-party support’, ‘now even MPs and peers agree that social care funding … must be increased’, its press release crowed.

But hang on a minute. Extra funds for care is pretty much a no-brainer these days, so how come that as many as 16% of our elected representatives oppose it? Can it really be that out of a House of Commons with 650 members, more than 90 believe that social care needs no additional resources? It gets worse. An even higher percentage of peers, 24% – that’s getting on for 200 – want to deprive care of more cash. Put that way round, the LGA ought to be sounding serious alarm bells, not celebrating what emerges as a distinctly hollow victory.

And who precisely are these latter day Scrooges? The survey was of course anonymous and covered only a sample, but isn’t it time that the guilty individuals were flushed out and named? It’s not sure when another general election will take place, far less whether care will be a prominent issue, but if MPs can be chastised for being anti-Jeremy or in favour of a soft Brexit, shouldn’t party members and voters know where they stand on care costs? As for the peers, we can’t of course deselect them, but once their views are in the open there is at least the chance to shame them publicly, strip them of positions of honour on charitable boards, throw a few rotten eggs. Or am I getting carried away?

Of course it isn’t only the current nay-sayers who are blameworthy. How many MPs and peers now claiming to be in the camp of the righteous have voted against care funding reform in the past, or indeed positively endorsed the cuts to local authority spending which have made the situation so much worse? As opposed to anonymous numbers in a survey, those votes really counted, and on that, surely not unreasonable, test there are very few honourable parliamentarians left standing.

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3 responses to “Punish these guilty parliamentarians!”

  1. It seems to me that its all going to have to hit the buffers before any real thinking gets underway. The nature of the game doesn’t provide for a planned availability of choice of care home, along the lines of budget, mid-range and stylish hotels. I recall an article years ago by Mike Parsons lamenting that Barchester’s group of care homes started out with 100% occupancy but that later evolved into 21% state-funded clients and climbing; presumably as existing residents’ private funds become exhausted.

    There is no Holy Grail that will allow society to fulfill all its ideals towards care of its frail aged. ‘Quality’ has always been subject to affordability. Council’s have always phoned-around for the cheapest, so putting the latter out of business. At some point that approach might produce its own natural level; I can’t see that that level can be pre-determined.

  2. John Burton says:

    Jeff, in answer to your question, yes, you are getting carried away. The Local Government Association want more money for social care and are trying to persuade MPs and the public to back them. Their chosen polling company interviewed 150 out of 650 MPs and got a totally unsurprising result. But it means nothing.
    As usual we get hung up on the money as if simply giving Local Authorities more money to do more of what they are doing badly at the moment will solve the “problem”. Social care is best organised and provided very locally from the ground up by neighbourhoods and communities, not nationally, regionally, nor even by most Local Authorities as currently defined. The funding should – at least in part – come from the people who use social care through their private and state incomes and benefits. It does at the moment, but users find themselves paying over the odds or excluded from help because they can’t afford it. And their local authorities can’t afford to pay for highly (but poorly) regulated “outsourced” services, employing women on low wages and intolerable conditions, and will gobble up any extra cash available.

  3. Bob Ferguson says:

    I couldn’t disagree more, John. The answer won’t be found by drilling further down into the administrative pyramid to neighbourhoods (whatever they are). Rather, it needs to go the other way, with a centralized system. Forget all the tosh about local authorities being well-placed to respond to local needs; they have proved over the years that, in this respect at least, they couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag. Whatever extra money is made available needs to managed effectively and equitably; and that can only be done with one set of rules – that is, from the centre.

    As I recall, back in 1993 Margaret Thatcher was deeply reluctant to give councils control of resources for adult social care. Her preference, it was reported at the time, was for the NHS to do the job. Unfortunately, she was talked out of it. Perhaps now is the time to bring care in all its forms under the same umbrella.

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