Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 15 December 2016


I am glad that the government is revisiting its financial support for social care. Social care is the shorthand description of how we look after people in residential and nursing homes and (increasingly importantly) how we care for those who need domiciliary help remaining in their own house. As our population ages (there will be 1 million more of us over 75 at the end of this Parliament than at the beginning) the challenge of how to care for our elderly has become a major concern.

Responsibility for social care lies firmly at the door of local government. In these times of austerity, all councils have had their budgets cut and social care budgets have not been unaffected. Right now the system is in danger of bursting at the seams.

The national living wage is a good policy. We have to start paying people properly so people in work do not have to rely on benefits. But the costs of paying extra wages is having an additional impact on providers of care homes and domiciliary care workers. The quality of care in most residential homes is now better than when I first started visiting them in 1992 but funding pressures have multiplied.

For several decades the budgets for hospitals and social care have been run by different organisations, but the two are inextricably inter-linked. At any one time there are many people in hospital unnecessarily because a place in a care home or support for them to return to their own home cannot be found. I have witnessed several unseemly battles over the years of different professionals arguing about whose budget should pick up the tab, while the patient languishes.

In Plymouth there is now much greater co-ordination between the two healthcare systems and I am watching closely to discern the tangible benefits.

What the role of the wider family is in all this is a moot point. Are we in danger of expecting the state to do things that family used to do voluntarily? Perhaps in these fractured days where family is more scattered, there is no alternative.

Allowing councils to raise more in council tax precepts to meet some of these challenges is welcome, building on decisions previously made. But one way or another, one day soon, our government is going to have to bite the bullet on this problem and put in place a properly funded affordable comprehensive scheme. It cannot come too soon.

posted by Gary @ 08:53