Tories ig­nor­ing crises in so­cial care and wel­fare

The Guardian - - LETTERS -

Thank you for lead­ing the de­bate on the na­tional cri­sis in so­cial care (For­got­ten and for­saken, So­cial care sup­ple­ment, 11 Oc­to­ber). As David Brindle rightly states, there was a “deaf­en­ing si­lence from last week’s Con­ser­va­tive party gath­er­ing in terms of any rel­e­vant pol­icy or fund­ing ini­tia­tive”. The gov­ern­ment has missed count­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to ad­dress this cri­sis. Work is yet to be­gin on the re­view promised ear­lier this year, while lo­cal gov­ern­ment fi­nances con­tinue to be squeezed. Faced with the dou­ble dilemma of a grow­ing el­derly pop­u­la­tion and chronic un­der­fund­ing from cen­tral gov­ern­ment, the so­cial care sys­tem in Bri­tain is at break­ing point. This has been high­lighted by or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the NHS, the Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion and the King’s Fund for some time, yet the gov­ern­ment ig­nores their warn­ings.

The pre­cept does not plug the gap left by a di­min­ish­ing cen­tral gov­ern­ment grant, the in­tro­duc­tion of the na­tional liv­ing wage and in­creas­ing de­mand, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas with the low­est coun­cil tax base, where de­mand is higher. In 2016/17 the 2% in­crease in coun­cil tax raised just £900,000 for adult so­cial care in South Ty­ne­side – against £9.8m needed. Fol­low­ing the ad­di­tional fund­ing an­nounce­ment in spring, the gov­ern­ment has yet to state what fund­ing, if any, will be avail­able be­yond the ini­tial three-year pe­riod. We need long-term so­lu­tions and fair fund­ing to en­able us to pro­vide our age­ing pop­u­la­tion with the care and dig­nity they de­serve. Cllr Iain Mal­colm Leader, South Ty­ne­side coun­cil • The Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion is an ex­ec­u­tive non-de­part­men­tal pub­lic body of the De­part­ment of Health. It was es­tab­lished in 2009 to reg­u­late and in­spect health and so­cial care ser­vices in Eng­land. It is ex­tra­or­di­nary that the min­is­ter of health, Philip Dunne, should dis­miss the ev­i­dence-based re­port of its own (al­beit in­de­pen­dent) ad­viser, warn­ing that “we are go­ing to see a fall in the qual­ity of ser­vices that are of­fered to peo­ple and that may mean that the safety of some peo­ple is com­pro­mised”, with a plat­i­tude that the NHS is “the best health­care sys­tem in the world”. Is the min­is­ter com­pla­cent, in de­nial or liv­ing in a par­al­lel uni­verse? Nick Finer UCL In­sti­tute of Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Science • Re your ar­ti­cle on the prob­lems claimants face with univer­sal credit (Surge in home­less­ness pre­dicted as new ben­e­fit raises rent ar­rears and evic­tions, 9 Oc­to­ber), it is im­por­tant to point out that pub­lic au­thor­i­ties have been made aware of them for some time. In 2015, the TUC com­mis­sioned a piece of work to as­sess the likely im­pact of univer­sal credit (UC) and a key find­ing was the fi­nan­cial penal­ties that claimants face due to the de­lay in ben­e­fit pay­ments. Fur­ther­more, wel­fare and ad­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions over the past cou­ple of years, in­clud­ing the work and pen­sions se­lect com­mit­tee and our own re­search on Sh­effield and Manch­ester, have pro­vided enough ev­i­dence on the ad­verse im­pacts of UC.

De­spite this ev­i­dence the gov­ern­ment has re­fused to budge on its po­si­tion. One can only de­duce from this that a sys­tem has been de­signed that de­lib­er­ately im­pov­er­ishes large num­bers of in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and chil­dren. Halt­ing the roll­out of UC, how­ever, will only par­tially ad­dress the prob­lems. What is re­quired is a fun­da­men­tal re­think about ben­e­fits as an in­come safety net. UC, ben­e­fit sanc­tions, the ben­e­fit cap and cuts to dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits all have the im­pact of mak­ing most hous­ing un­af­ford­able and lead­ing to home­less­ness. By keep­ing ben­e­fits below sub­sis­tence lev­els, the gov­ern­ment ar­gues that peo­ple will be in­cen­tivised to find work. This has lit­tle ev­i­dence base; in fact, sur­veys show that more peo­ple re­spond by ad­just­ing their house­hold bud­gets ac­cord­ingly, giv­ing pri­or­ity to food rather than rents. Their fo­cus is on sur­vival and cop­ing with debt rather than find­ing work.

It seems there is now a re­al­i­sa­tion that the wel­fare re­forms, with their im­pact on the hous­ing (and em­ploy­ment) mar­ket and per­sonal debt, have sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic as well as so­cial con­se­quences.

Dr David Ether­ing­ton Mid­dle­sex Uni­ver­sity, Pro­fes­sor Martin Jones Stafford­shire Uni­ver­sity • In a coun­try where the wealth and health gap be­tween rich and poor is so enor­mous, where health and so­cial care ser­vices creak and groan through lack of ad­e­quate fund­ing and suf­fi­cient staff, where pris­on­ers are ex­pected to serve sen­tences in over­crowded and in­san­i­tary con­di­tions, su­per­vised by de­mor­alised staff, where chil­dren are ex­pected to re­ceive top-class ed­u­ca­tion from over­stretched teach­ers in crum­bling build­ings, where el­derly peo­ple are ma­rooned in hospi­tal for lack of car­ers and money to see them home, where drug-re­lated crime and men­tal ill­ness are rife, where ter­ror­ism is a per­ma­nent loom­ing threat, we find a gov­ern­ment ob­sessed with some­thing called Brexit which will do noth­ing to solve any of the above prob­lems. Time, surely, for any gov­ern­ment that pro­fesses to have the in­ter­ests of this coun­try at heart to aban­don this ir­rel­e­vant project and look af­ter its peo­ple. John Evers Truro, Corn­wall • Re­becca Sol­nit calls for a re­think of mas­culin­ity and sug­gests we change the way we raise our boys. She cites ex­am­ples from the US and Swe­den, but also in the same day’s pa­per are ar­ti­cles about hair-chop­ping in Kash­mir and the fail­ure of the In­dian gov­ern­ment to re­voke a law that al­lows men to rape their wives. FGM, child mar­riage and the use of rape as a weapon of war have been widely re­ported for years. Ask­ing our boys to “play nice” is point­less. As long as the power im­bal­ance which is at the root of all op­pres­sive be­hav­iour con­tin­ues, these hor­rors will con­tinue to blight hu­man­ity. Ruth Ever­s­ley Paulton, Som­er­set • The by­standers Zoe Wil­liams writes of (G2, 11 Oc­to­ber) in­clude us all. The fact that racism still thrives is the proof that we must do some­thing, not just feel bad. Make a change: say some­thing, sign some­thing, write some­thing, do some­thing about su­prem­a­cists and abusers. Bob Ja­cob­son Lon­don

It seems that a sys­tem has been de­signed which de­lib­er­ately im­pov­er­ishes large num­bers of in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and chil­dren David Ether­ing­ton and Martin Jones

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