BY PHÉLIM MAC CAFFERTY
One of the biggest areas of concern in the upcoming Labour Council budget is Adult Social Care. Over the next four years Labour have made it clear that they will cut over £20.5 million from budgets to support disabled adults and older people.
These cuts come amid growing evidence of a crisis in health and social care, with fewer older and disabled people receiving the support they need. According to a recent BBC report, two-thirds of requests for care are rejected by Councils across the country. In 2013 the report by Mencap found that 36% of disabled people receiving care were unable to eat, wash, dress or get out of the house, and 47% reported that the services they receive do not enable them to take part in community life.
In administration, Greens pulled out all the stops to stave off cuts to frontline services. That’s why according to the data behind the BBC report, in Brighton and Hove, just 16% of requests for care from older and disabled people were rejected in 2014-15, compared to 72% in East Sussex and a staggering 96% in West Sussex. We sought steady improvement of services, but we knew exactly how important these services were and that they couldn’t be cut without dire consequences.
What was once a pursuit of value for money has under Labour become a relentless march towards the lowest common denominator. The new administration has become obsessed with bringing costs into line with neighbouring authorities, despite these councils facing criticism and protests as their disabled and older people go neglected.
The few remaining services provided by council teams may have a higher unit cost, but they are of outstanding quality and delivered by dedicated, caring staff. Similarly, sheltered housing for people with learning disabilities may be a little more expensive than if provided by the private sector, but the quality of care is excellent and people are empowered to engage in the community and have friends and relationships, compared to bare-minimum care found in some private care homes. This is not a luxury, it is an essential part of treating people with dignity.
The Conservative Government has given councils the power to raise council tax by a further 2% to pay for the increasing costs of social care. Aside from the fact that this represents central government offloading its responsibilities onto council taxpayers, 2% will fall far short of the investment needed to cover the cost of the ageing population.
We need to change the way we think about health and social care. For a start, policymakers have to stop just seeing numbers, and better understand what a £20.5 million cut will mean in terms of quality of life and care outcomes for disabled and older people.
We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in. For Greens, we know it’s a society where our most vulnerable members are supported to contribute, not where they are shut away. Austerity is letting down entire generations of older and disabled people and condemning them to social isolation and poverty.