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Aged care crisis persists but still no solution in view

24 July, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Baroness Altmann: ‘Social care should be integrated into the NHS, with free personal care at the point of need’

IN the much-derided Labour Party manifesto for the 2019 election there was one little gem, perhaps among others, that seemed to escape me until I was reminded of it this week.

That is it pledged to fully fund a proper national care service for the elderly which, it is recognised by many, is in a shambles at present. Last week I argued for the creation of a National Care Service along the lines of the NHS and quoted a critic of the present system, Baroness Ros Altmann, a Conservative peer who is conducting her own campaign with articles in the Guardian and Daily Mail.

After my piece appeared last week she sent me a brief email saying she “agreed” with me.

I couldn’t quite understand her message because I was calling for a nationally organised service under a government department. She had said in one of her articles that the care service could be “nationalised” but only temporarily. In a sense I couldn’t have expected more, considering her political persuasion but I pressed her to expand on her views.

And she emailed me saying: “I believe that social care should be integrated into the NHS, with free personal care at the point of need. It should not matter whether someone has dementia or motor neurone disease or cancer – they should receive basic care funded by the State. But everyone will have to make a contribution to care costs, whether or not they personally need care. That seems to me a sensible way forward.”

It seemed as if we are going in the same direction.

But, as I pointed out last week, where are the other voices of protest? Who else is coming forward with a solution to a crisis that the Establishment is so wary of?

Labour, under Corbyn, raised its voice. And Labour today? I cannot hear the thunder of protest the crisis calls for. One of the big unions, Unison, has brought up the issue at its conferences and the subject is much talked about in its higher circles, I understand.

But in the meantime thousands of lives are being spent miserably by the elderly in underfunded care homes, run by private companies, many of which are based in offshore tax havens. To make matters worse the Chancellor announced pay rises on Tuesday for most public sector workers but not all – he appears to have left out care workers.

Once again, they are left to languish on the minimum wage despite having been hailed recently as key “front-line” staff helping to tackle the virus pandemic.


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