Care in all places? Dignity at all times.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying….[1]

I was fortunate to grow up in small Midlands town where all my Grandparents lived. I received much love from them and learned heaps; in many ways my discussions with my Grandmother about her experiences in the 1930s and 1940s and the foundation of the welfare state, formed my worldview.

How we value the personhood and wisdom and dignity of the elderly is a mark of our Christian faith. As with any aspect of faith and life; there is a lively political debate being played out that bids us to speak into.

Care in Places Report Logo


 ‘Securing quality adult social care in all places’


Older people laughingIn many ways there is a paradox about the public policy debate on adult social care. Rightly, it has considerable profile, grabs the attention of political parties for periods and everyone agrees there needs to be consensus. However, consensus proves elusive. Thus, it is a matter of serious import that, periodically gets talked about a lot, yet serious action has been avoided across the spectrum.

 

However, this debate, at surface level, tends to major on the vexed and important issue of the elderly selling their family home to fund their later life care. This is profoundly important and is clearly a social justice issue. However, in practice it precludes a broader debate about funding the needs of those who never owned a home in the first place. For too long they have been fenced out of public discourse on the social care debate.

 

Those who have no property to sell to fund their care are likely to be less economically secure than fellow citizens who owned a property. Furthermore, when they need to access Local Authority care, possibly at a point of crisis, the resources available to fund their case are skewed by a serious design flaw. It is possible that the individual could be placed in a home without easy reach of their loved ones, who might be requested to pay additional ‘top up’ payments for their care, which can be the norm nowadays. All this comes as a profound shock, at a time of immense vulnerability.

 

The Salvation Army has long been calling for a debate on social care that is inclusive of the needs of those renters who are placed in such an invidious position at the point of requiring Local Authority care.  As a first step to resolving this injustice, The Salvation Army has called for the long awaited Green Paper both to be published and to explicitly explore this question that would make moral, social and actually economic sense.

 

In preparing for this debate we commissioned research that unpacks the variable configuration of funding and resource at a local level. Thus, based on this research, in July The Salvation Army published a report, 'Care in Places', which examines the impact of the current system through which responsibility for funding social care services is devolved to the local level in England. The report explores the extent to which the current funding system is effective in aligning the need for social care support with the capacity to fund social care at the local level.

 

Care in Places’ reflects upon how need and resource interact at a local level, and the funding inequalities local authorities in England face. We set out that there is not simply a national social care funding crisis. Our report shows there are a series of local social care funding crises.

 

Older people enjoying conversationUnderpinning this case; we need to remind Government of its responsibility to the less advantaged members of the community.  A politics of the common good requires Government – at a national or local level – to level the playing field so people have the resources to participate in a common life. This point is well by Anglican Theologian, Nick Townsend forcefully who said:

 

'...what governments must do is in response to sins of omission. To have the possibility of participating in the common good, people need access to a range of basic goods such as food, water, healthcare and income in old age.'[2]

 

Our report exposes significant funding inequalities across England which left unaddressed will further compound already ingrained injustices for our communities. Specifically, it found that:

  • The policy of expecting local authorities to raise sufficient taxes to pay for social care is doomed to fail. Factors such as the relatively low house prices and its population size can inhibit its capacity to raise money from its economy through mechanisms like business rates have been notably distorting to a local authorities’ spending power.
  • 27 Upper Tier Local Authorities (UTLA’s) have spending power within the range of the annual cost of an average care package for adults with long term care conditions (£3,000 to £8,000 a year), suggesting that in reality these local authorities would struggle to fund care at around this average level to all those in need.
  • Over 40 percent of local authorities saw their ability to fund adult social care fall between 2011 and 2014.

Despite its significant impact on health, our analysis found little relationship between deprivation and local authorities’ spending power.  

Thus, The Salvation Army recommends that:

  • The Government should publish its social care green paper.
  • The debate on adult social care has largely focused on the funding envelope for the sector as a whole and has barely touched on how it should be distributed which is equally as important as the overall sum.
  • The Government must avoid any oversimplification in the redistribution of funding which will further compound ingrained funding inequalities across England.

A concern for the poor is central to an orthodox Christian faith, just as our natures are prone to sin, self-centeredness and hoarding of resources so this happens at the level of community and nation-state.   Denying sufficient resources and quality care to the elderly and the neediest is denying our fellow citizens the means to human flourishing.

Care in Places’ shines a light into the variability of funding available at a Local Authority level in England and makes some clear and reasonable recommendations for action. We should no longer give lip service to the elderly in our community; who may feel isolated, unloved and brutally overlooked at the point of their life when they need care.

As Luke Bretherton reminds us:

‘If humans are to participate more lovingly and justly in forms of common life with each other, with nonhuman life, and with God, then the current social, political and economic structures need to change.’[3]

What arrangements need to change and in what order is the stuff of politics and legitimate debate. The time has come for the adult social care system to be re structured for justice and human flourishing and way from inequality and political neglect.

All political parties should commit to ensure that quality care is accessible, whatever place people live in and whatever their income. The publication of a Green Paper would at least provide the opportunity for these complex issues to be debated.

 


To access the report - https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/files/careinplaces-salvationarmyreportfinalpdf/download?token=ksdPnZwM


[1] ‘To the Virgins,  to Make much of time’…Robert Herrick

[2] ‘Social Infrastructure: A Christian Theological View of the Role of Government’, Nicholas Townsend, Paper for seminar at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, 30 Jan. 20181

[3] P22 ‘Christ and the Common Life – Political Theology and the case for Democracy’, Luke Bretherton, 2019

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published this page in Articles 2019-11-04 15:47:26 +0000