By Leon A Smith
July 22, 2011
The past few months in the care sector have to a great extent been extremely important. This is due to the fact that for the first time in many years multiple issues relating to the care of older people have found their way to a very high position in the political and public agenda.
From the point of view of those of us here at Nightingale, this is really very welcome news. For far too long government(s) have largely buried their head in the sand rather than grapple with some of the fundamental issues relating to older people – not least of course is the funding regime. Recent weeks have seen many column inches taken up on matters of interest to older people – some of it bad news such as the possible demise of Southern Cross, but some more positive news including the publication of the Dilnot recommendations on the long term funding of care for older people. It is amazing however, just how quickly this latter issue has slipped back down the public agenda.
The media at the present time are all consumed by Murdoch, News International and the Phone Hacking scandal. Some would say that some of these issues including the relationship between media, the police and politicians go to the very heart of our society yet one cannot fail not to ask whether the amount of coverage in both the printed and electronic media is not becoming somewhat out of proportion.
The consequence of this is that other issues including (but not exclusively) older people’s issues are now rapidly disappearing from the spot light. Certainly our newspapers are having no difficulty in filling their pages and TV news bulletins as theyseem to be extremely preoccupied with those matters referred to above; but at the same time nothing appears to be happening in relation to issues that really matter to people - issues that affect people and the lives of their families.
One of the points that I have expressed previously in this Blog has been my concern that the recommendations of Dilnot will be sidelined, shelved, or to use that much overworked cliché “kicked into the long grass”. Sadly in a matter of weeks that’s exactly what seems to have happened. There are repeated references to the government “revisiting” this in the Spring – originally it had been envisaged that a White Paper on the matter would be published in the Spring but somehow that seems unlikely. In any case, there is talk of any implementation of the Dilnot recommendations not actually being carried out for a number of years.
In the meantime our current funding system continues to creek under an intolerable amount of pressure in a financial environment which is hardly conducive to the wellbeing of those in need of financial support. We will therefore continue for at least several years dealing with a system which is not “needs” led but financially led. Local authorities will continue to move their own goal posts (another very well used cliché!) making it harder and harder for those in genuine need with no financial means for themselves to receive appropriate care. There are many people living in the community who would both choose to live in a care home environment and who would benefit enormously from so doing – who simply cannot do so because individual local authorities are not prepared to fund. So much for choice and personalisation!
We do not yet know which parts of the Dilnot report the government may decide to implement and to what degree they may water down the recommendations. In the meantime there is a climate of uncertainty and financial pressure – and this will mean you will find more shock/horror stories involving older people. My fear is that it is only this kind of story that is going to make the pages of our newspapers.