More people are living into their 80s and 90s, and beyond. It is generally agreed that this is a testament to our NHS. Over the past half-a-century advances in medicine and medical practice has boosted the health of millions. This has given many people a longer lease of life.
While improved health care and practices lead to longevity, there is a down side. Longevity means that people may begin to experience more ill-health and infirmity. As a greater proportion of our population lives longer so the frequency in age-related conditions such as dementia increases.
Therefore, as a society we need to address the growing challenges to be met in areas such as social care and support for elderly people. However, it’s not only older people, but also disabled people of working age, and younger who require these services.
Another, less publicised, aspect that impacts upon elderly and disabled people is social exclusion which can lead to isolation. With the social care and support budget being viciously slashed this problem is exacerbated. Loneliness is becoming a scourge within our society. People locked away in their homes devoid of any human connectivity, looking forward to a lonely future.
As a society, we need to push government and councils to address what is going to be the single greatest social malaise facing us. Imposing council tax precepts to deal with the shortfall in the social care budgets is not the answer. No, this will go nowhere near to properly funding support and care; and, it will create another postcode lottery.
Social care and support is important enough to become a stand-alone service. A National Support and Care Service (NSCS); an autonomous service independent of the NHS and Local Authorities, yet working closely with these bodies and others when called upon.
This will be a service that meets the needs of everyone; is free at the point of delivery; and is based on social support and care needs, not the ability to pay.
As for who foots the bill. May I suggest our NSCS is funded in the same way as we fund the royal family, Trident and all those illegal wars we seem to enjoy entering. Yes, through general taxation. If it’s good enough to pay for great British establishments and cultural martial traditions, then it’s good enough to cover social support and care.