A year of challenges

As our service users make clear in setting out their hopes and fears for 2006, the year ahead will not be a smooth ride. Older people will welcome the introduction of legislation on discrimination, but will wonder whether the empowering principles of the adult social care green paper will carry over to the joint white paper on health and social care.

Many people with learning difficulties will share these worries and, while plans to establish a “tsar” for the sector have won widespread support, concern about the extent to which Valuing People can bring about far-reaching change remain. And, for people with mental health problems, the potential of the much-delayed Mental Health Bill to scupper civil liberties is still a source of anxiety.

In many ways, the joint white paper, due this month, will set the tone. If it encourages a significant shift of emphasis from hospitals to the community and the development of more imagination in primary care trusts, service users can only benefit. As the split between children’s and adult social care becomes virtually complete in the course of the year, the white paper will be an important determinant of its success or failure. The future for social care, as for its users, hangs in the balance.

See Unfinished Business and What We Want in 2006

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