The social care system which looks after our frail and vulnerable in society is on the verge of collapse. Health and social care are two sides of the same coin, underfund one and you overstretch the other. Adult social services, which care for these old people, has a yawning gap in funding compared to what they need and care homes are closing at an alarming rate as their is no profit to be made out of the sector. The staff in care homes are all Johnny Foreigners who are underqualified, paid less than staff stacking shelves at Tesco and here is some shocking new hidden camera footage to prove that they are abusing old people. Bed blocking is rife across the NHS with old people stuck in hospital unable to be discharged because social services haven’t been able to sort out the care they need to go home. Emergency readmissions where someone, generally over 65 years old, heads back into A&E fewer than 28 days after being discharged, is at an all time high and getting worse. All the main political parties agree there needs to be a cross party consensus to fix this problem and it cannot go on as it is with demand increasing as the population gets older.
This sounds like the headlines and comment pieces in the media of 2016. But these are phrases I helped bandy around back in 2002 when I worked as a Parliamentary researcher specialising in the health and social care system and how to fix it. Back then the same problems were being highlighted, the same dire predictions were being prophesised and the same solutions to fix it were being mooted. And I was wrong in those forecasts of impending doom. Here we are, more than a decade later with nothing having been done and still things are functioning in the same way and the same headlines are splattered across the same newspapers, more often than not, by the same people who were making the same predictions all those years ago.
There is a huge issue with all those who identify the problems in social care. They all look at the issue in the same ways and all simply call for more taxpayer money to be thrown at it to solve the crisis. So, councils cry for more money to help prop up their services even though they could jiggle their billions round to push more at it if they really wanted. The care home providers call for the same so they can make a decent profit out of it. The newspapers who care about this – the Mail, Telegraph, Express – all have readers who are either about to go into care homes or about to see their inheritance dwindle as they plonk their mum or dad in one of these costly institutions and so are desperate to see someone else fit the bill for the care – so they want more taxpayer money lobbed at it. The nursing sector want greater funding so that they can campaign for better pay for their staff. Tories call for more money to be given to it because their voters are all old and hate to see their inheritance dwindle. Labour calls for the same because state centred taxpayer funded approaches is what left wing people feel is best and again wins them votes. All self interested, all looking for Mr and Mrs Taxpayer to pay for a financial rather than social solution.
To do this there has been talk recently of insurance based systems, council tax rises, a cap on care costs, death taxes, foreign aid budgets diverted and a merger of the NHS and social care to fix this problem. Yet all of these miss the point.
Back in the 1940’s, when the NHS was set up it was never imagined that people would get old and require more, not less, care. They thought the NHS would make people healthier and so would mean that overall there would be less of a need for care. Care homes for the elderly weren’t even a thing. Alzheimer’s and dementia, two of the biggest killers today, didn’t factor into the equation since people died much earlier before these awful diseases could take hold.
We are likely to be in poor health for more than 12 of our earthbound years. Over a decade where we need to be looked after and cared for. And as improvements in medicine continue the number of years we are alive grows but also so does the number of years we stay alive in bad health. The drugs don’t fix people, they just postponed the day the grim reaper pops by with his scythe to scoop up his next victim. This means an ever longer time where someone has to look after the ailing physical specimen.
It means any system that relies on state funding will become ever more burdensome or poor in quality as more and more people use it and less and less funding is available to pay for it. So, if that is the case what is the answer?
Before the Baby Boomers came along people, and society, saw the job of caring for the older members of the country as one for both the family and the nearby community. It would be a duty, and an honour, to assist these people at the latter stages of life to stay in their home and care for them. Anywhere else in the world this still applies. Regardless of what you have going on in your life, your parents or the elderly gent down the road deserves your love and support. They look at places like Britain in disgust at the way we see it as expected and accepted that as soon as dearest Grandpops or Dad start looking a bit boss eyed we whisk them off to some sanitised overheated waiting room for God in order than we can wash away any feeling that we have a moral obligation to help our loved one out at their biggest time of need.
The bunging the old into places where we can’t see them business is done on an industrial scale. At any time there are more than a third of a million people bunged into profit making faceless institutions so that ‘loved ones’ can see out their final weeks, months and years in single rooms with people who don’t give a monkeys about them. Because these people cannot be seen, then we, as a society, don’t have to worry about them. And the only ones who do see it are either about to die in there, earn a wage out of caring for them before they die or have put them in the home in the first place to get them out of their minds. So the cycle of selfish, cold, callousness continues.
No one in politics will dare raise the most suitable, logical and morally comfortable solution of people caring for their own relatives again. Yet that is the only way to cure the broken and heartless system we have now. We need to give a shit about our old folk, about our mums, dads, grans and grandads. We need to invest our time, effort and ourselves into looking after them, in our homes, in the same way that they looked after us when we were vulnerable. We need to accept that it should not be the state that deals with the end of days for our parents or eventually ourselves, but that it should be us who do the caring because we care not because we are paying other people to care.
Sadly there are too many self interested and selfish people today to dare to change the care system to be what it should be. And there are too many ‘hard working families’ who feel that their older relatives are a burden that they shouldn’t shoulder. So we will continue to see headline after headline of the care system being doomed, we will continue to seek answers and we will continue to come up with solutions that will never address the underlying problem of how we treat those who are supposedly our loved ones when they are at their lowest and weakest ebb.