The Department of Health is going to create a school of research into adult social care. Apparently, this adds £3m to the £10m annual research budget for this subject.
You might wonder why I would I use the word “apparently”.
The DH is only taking proposals from researchers who already work for it. Why would it do this? Our experience of this government is that “new” money is not extra funding, but often the same money transferred from somewhere else, or just re-labelled. So is this “new” money just a way of re-directing – or renaming – the research of academics they already fund? The politicians are busy warning us – or grooming us into believing – that the nation won’t be able to afford to look after the next wave of older people. So this skew in the population, this peak in the demographic, which the education system coped with so well, which the NHS has made healthier than any previous generation, and who made this country richer than it ever has been, is likely to bankrupt the government?
As an adult service user myself, born at the tail end of the baby-boom, I should find this focus on adult care reassuring. I should be looking forward to the extra research, which will help shape policy and practice to ensure an independent – if possible – person-centred comfortable old age for my generation. But why is there a push for more research now rather than 10 years ago? Surely, someone in this government should have seen this coming, realised that research takes years to be fruitful, and made this initiative in good time, so that the right structures were in place, ready to meet the challenge.
This government has an unenviable record in ignoring research and the experts who produced it. This government said that relaxing alcohol prices would be good for business, and extended opening hours would reduce public disorder. Experts predicted that these changes would lead to more alcohol-related health problems and more public disorder. And they were right. Government has flip-flopped over the classification of cannabis, when the experts have said that reclassification would be meaningless. I’m sure they are right over this too.
For New Labour, research just seems to get in the way of some minister’s prejudices when it comes to policymaking. So forgive me for thinking that research into adult social care, at this stage, just looks like someone paying lip service to the problem itself.
Simon Heng is a wheelchair user and involved in service user-led groups
Read more pieces by Simon Heng at https://www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-care-experts-blog/