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Time waits for no government

9 May 2012
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If you have anything to do with Social Care in this country you will be feeling exasperated and let down today by the Queen’s speech.

Only a draft Social Care bill, but a full bill for House of Lords reform. The Government has its priorities the wrong way round. Political expediency is getting in the way of matters more urgent.

Perhaps the Queen’s Speech came too soon for Social Care. The political parties have been discussing the reform of social care and were due to publish a White Paper before Easter. It didn’t happen in time for today.

We all know it’s difficult, but Social Care comes down to one big question: how much will this Government (and future Governments and local Councils) have to stump up per person after the threshold beyond which people have to pay? A tough question and a good one. But it is time to tackle it now. There must be some positive and decisive action on Social Care during the lifetime of this Government.

Besides, following the review of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support in 2011, the Government knows how much money is required. Currently, only those with assets of less than £23,250 are offered council-funded home help and care home places. The review not only recommended that this should rise to £100,000, but that nobody should have to pay more than £35,000 on their social care, whatever their circumstances. It priced these recommendations at an extra £1.7 billion a year.

A budget is a budget. For the house or the country, it’s all about priorities. It may sound trite and tabloid to point out that we spend £43 billion every year on defence, so why can’t we find £1.7 billion more for the social care of older people?

Elderly people will get more power over the care they receive. One day. Not this year, or next. The future is delayed. Too bad if you’re getting older. As that applies to all of us, you’d think the Government would have put greater priority and timeliness behind a Social Care bill in the Queen’s Speech of 2012. Please don’t make it a General Election issue. It’s much too important for a quarter of the adult population in the UK today. And you, tomorrow. And you, the day after that.

@jillyforster