by Dr. Ros Altmann
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Today's Queen's Speech promised a bill for adult social care and I sincerely hope that the needs of our ageing population take a higher priority for this government. This is one subject that can unite us all and gain cross party support.
The crisis in our care system isn't a new problem. After procrastination by successive governments, in the form of various commissions and reports, a white paper on the issue of social care reform was expected last Christmas and has still not appeared, amid fears that some changes - such as who pays for care - could even be delayed until 2015 or beyond. The Coalition Agreement originally stated that it understood the urgency of reforming the care system but this immediacy has not been evident.
We currently have the worst of all worlds with the numbers of people needing care growing rapidly, the quality of frail elderly people's lives falling due to lack of funding and ballooning costs to the NHS. A partnership approach, where people understand what state support they will get and are encouraged to save for social care costs, will improve quality of life and help reduce more expensive NHS care and medical needs for the ageing population.
It is not much use promising personal budgets and more choice if the money available is being rationed and reduced. Last year, councils spent £1bn less on social care, despite rising needs. We MUST make clear what people need to pay for themselves or their loved ones care needs and ensure that the system is fair.
Currently nobody is saving for care and they have no idea how the system works because we have a hotchpotch arrangement that revolves around local authorities, rather than around people's needs. The Social Care reforms must clarify the responsibility of each individual and ensure a rational, national care system which improves the quality of care and saves money for the NHS. We have not yet seen any such proposals from the Government.
Saga, along with other high profile campaign groups, has been urging government to take it's head out of the sand and ensure that long term care is given the priority it deserves - and our economy and NHS so desperately needs.