At the Westminster Health Forum in January the topic was “Next steps for improving dementia care: funding, reducing variations and implementing the 2020 Challenge” . Carer and Research Network volunteer from the Alzheimer’s Society, Andrew Cornwall, spoke eloquently about the cuts and in particular short term contracts staff in the voluntary sector seem to be increasingly employed under. The evil of the short term contract is covered in my post about Vibrant Manchester so I was glad to hear it raised very publicly and added my own voice to the points made.
Surrey also featured during the forum, which was of great interest to me, as that is where I live. The funding cuts here and across Surrey have been catastrophic as the borough tries to claw back money from its deficit (something that warranted a special mention in the House of Commons pre Budget debate yesterday). It is not surprising that Richmond is so badly affected – house prices have risen so steeply that even the council’s website concedes that young people cannot afford to buy here. So we naturally have a huge population of older people. At the Joint Carers meeting in February organised by Rare Dementia UK, a gentleman highlighted the fact that the carers grant introduced under the Care Act 2014 was an easy pot of money to access three years ago in Richmond, now, he has been told, it is virtually non existent. Other carers gave examples of inconsistent access to services form across the country such as care co-ordinators and Dementia Advisors. Even when there is money for services there is no guarantee that people living with dementia can confidently rely on their long term continuity.
So has the Budget improved anything or given us hope? The chancellor has ring fenced £2billion to cover the cracks, is it enough? Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust think-tank, stated:
“The £2 billion announced for social care over the next three years is welcome and desperately needed. But the £1 billion share of that cash promised for next year will plug only half of the funding gap we’ve identified for that year.”
The Conservatives also promised that councils and NHS Trusts which are under severe pressure will be identified and supported. Many are asking whether the social care crisis has actually been exacerbated by the Tories, would we have fared better under Labour? We shall see what the next few years bring but you know what they say, no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.