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The Tories are ignoring the worsening crises in social care, health and welfare

Posted on 13/10/2017 by


Iain Malcolm says the government has missed countless opportunities to improve social care; Nick Finer says the health minister is either complacent or in denial about the NHS’s troubles; David Etherington and Martin Jones say authorities have ignored the evidence on universal credit; and John Everswonders about the obsession with Brexit amid a sea of domestic troubles

Thank you for leading the debate on the national crisis in social care (Forgotten and forsaken, Social care supplement, 11 October). As David Brindle rightly states, there was a “deafening silence from last week’s Conservative party gathering in terms of any relevant policy or funding initiative”. The government has missed countless opportunities to address this crisis. Work is yet to begin on the review promised earlier this year, while local government finances continue to be squeezed. Faced with the double dilemma of a growing elderly population and chronic underfunding from central government, the social care system in Britain is at breaking point. This fact of life has been highlighted by organisations such as the NHS, the Care Quality Commission and the King’s Fund for some time, yet the government ignores their warnings.

The precept does not plug the gap left by a diminishing central government grant, the introduction of the national living wage and increasing demand, particularly in areas with the lowest council tax base, where demand is higher. In 2016/17 the 2% increase in council tax raised just £900,000 for adult social care in South Tyneside – against £9.8m needed. Following the additional funding announcement in spring, the government has yet to state what funding, if any, will be available beyond the initial three-year period. We need long-term solutions and fair funding to enable us to provide our ageing population with the care and dignity they deserve.
Cllr Iain Malcolm
Leader, South Tyneside council

• The Care Quality Commission is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health of the United Kingdom. It was established in 2009 to regulate and inspect health and social care services in England. It is therefore extraordinary that the minister of health, Philip Dunne, should dismiss the evidence-based report of its own (albeit independent) adviser, warning that “we are going to see a fall in the quality of services that are offered to people and that may mean that the safety of some people is compromised”, with a platitude that the NHS is “the best healthcare system in the world”. Is the minister complacent, in denial or living in a parallel universe?
Nick Finer
UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science

• With reference to your article on the problems claimants face with universal credit (Surge in homelessness predicted as new benefit raises rent arrears and evictions, 9 October), it is important to point out that public authorities have been made aware of them for some time. In 2015, the TUC commissioned a piece of work to assess the likely impact of universal credit (UC) and a key finding was the financial penalties that claimants face due to the delay in benefit payments. Furthermore, welfare and advice organisations over the past couple of years, including the work and pensions select committee and our own research on Sheffield and Manchester, have provided enough evidence on the adverse impacts of UC.

Despite this evidence the government has refused to budge on its position and a policy which is not “fit for purpose”. One can only deduce from this that a system has been designed that deliberately impoverishes large numbers of individuals, families and children. Halting the rollout of UC, however, will only partially address the problems analysed in your article. What is required is a fundamental rethink about benefits (or, as we would prefer to term it, social security) as an income safety net. UC, benefit sanctions, the benefit cap and cuts to disability benefits all have the impact of making most housing unaffordable and leading to homelessness. By keeping benefits below subsistence levels, the government argues that people will be incentivised to find work. This has little evidence base; in fact, surveys show that more people respond by adjusting their household budgets accordingly, giving priority to food rather than rents. Their focus is on survival and coping with debt rather than finding work.

It seems that there is now a realisation that the welfare reforms, with their adverse impact on the housing (and employment) market and personal debt, have significant economic as well as social consequences.
Dr David Etherington Middlesex University
Professor Martin Jones Staffordshire University

• In a country where the wealth and health gap between rich and poor is so enormous, where health and social care services creak and groan through lack of adequate funding and sufficient staff, where prisoners are expected to serve sentences in overcrowded and insanitary conditions, supervised by demoralised staff, where children are expected to receive top-class education from overstretched teachers in crumbling buildings, where elderly people are marooned in hospital for lack of carers and money to see them home, where drug-related crime and mental illness are rife, where terrorism is a permanent looming threat, we find a government obsessed with something called Brexitwhich will do nothing to solve any of the above problems. Time, surely, for any government that professes to have the interests of this country at heart to abandon this irrelevant project and look after its people.
John Evers
Truro, Cornwall

Source: Guardian