Will adults’ services be taken seriously by the government, asks Simon Heng

After the government has spent billions of pounds trying to improve the NHS, while leaving adult social care with little or no new investment – except through further rounds of “efficiency savings” – Ivan Lewis, the care services minister, has risked the unpopularity of the rest of his department, and probably the rest of the government, by demanding that adult social care be prioritised if Gordon Brown becomes prime minister.

Writing for Progress, a centre-left think tank, Lewis commented that adult social care is a “Cinderella service”, designed for a different age. “People are living longer with increasingly complex conditions…today’s generation of older people and the baby boomers reaching retirement age will want to remain in their own homes or non-institutionalised care and retain control of their own destiny for as long as possiblecare support can be the most effective and efficient way of securing well-being.”

He goes on to urge Brown that now is the time “when we commit to building a new consensus [for older and disabled people]”. I hope what he means is that he’s hoping for consensus among politicians to provide more money.

Well, congratulations to Lewis for pointing out what everyone in adult social care, professionals, service users and carers alike have known for years. I’m sure that his views will be met by nodding heads from his colleagues perhaps another study will be commissioned, perhaps even a committee of stakeholders convened, while the chancellor (whoever it will be) wrings their hands, saying something to the effect of “we know it’s a terrible problem, but we just can’t afford to spend any more”.

At a time when services are being rationed ever tighter, and protests against cuts – such as the recent demonstrations at council meetings in London – are likely to grow, social care urgently needs that kind of injection of funding the NHS has been getting recently. Otherwise, many older and disabled people are going to be leading lives of greater deprivation and misery than they did before the community care legislation.

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