You needed a long attention span to listen to the whole of Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference. But it was worth staying the course for clues as to what social care might be like in Brown’s Britain. His speech was entitled “We will always strive to be on your side” but it was not always entirely clear whose side he is on. The police, armed forces, the security services, business and parents all got a special mention.
And he’s certainly on education’s side as he pledged to increase the amount spent on schoolchildren from £5,500 to £8,000 a year each. Also, in the world according to Brown, the “greatest failures of social policy” have been services for children in care and disabled children, treatment of offenders and personal care for the frail and old.
If true then surely, as the man who has kept such a tight grip on the purse strings, Gordon himself should be taking his share of the blame? Not a bit of it. Instead he spoke about a resurgence of the active citizen and the empowered community, with government “fulfilling its responsibilities to fund services while fully valuing the contribution the voluntary sector can make.”
If only government had been fulfilling its responsibility to fund social care services, maybe the problem areas he highlighted wouldn’t be in the mess many of them are in. Is he not aware that the endless drive for “efficiency savings” is having a knock-on effect that is damaging many of the grassroots community schemes he claims to favour?
And when he talks about wanting increased recognition for home helps who, he believes, should be top of the list when it comes to handing out honours, does he not realise all many of them want is a decent living wage?
When Gordon Brown becomes prime minister as, barring accidents, he almost certainly will, part of his induction to the job should be meeting some front-line social care staff who can give him a reality check on the impact of his financial “prudence” and why it will be so disastrous if social care misses out in the comprehensive spending review next year.
Otherwise he might not get to enjoy his spell in the top job for quite as long as he would like.