Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford 4:32 pm, 24th April 2019

I start by praising Chelmsford City Council, which has led the way in transforming Chelmsford into England’s newest city. Last year, Chelmsford was ranked the No. 1 place to live in the east of England. We have a bustling high street full of new shops and restaurants, and we have a vibrant night life. We have just been ranked No. 1 in the country for our Pubwatch scheme, which is keeping people safe at night.

We have 13 green flag parks, and, a couple of weeks ago, one of our parks was chosen to be home to the national police dog memorial—do come and visit. The local council is working with the local police on investing in a community policing hub, which will have state-of-the-art CCTV, and they have co-invested in extra community policing that will help to support the over 300 extra police officers who have been added to Essex services.

We are building a new swimming pool, upgrading the museum and refurbishing the fantastic indoor market. We recently invested over £1 million in local charities to tackle homelessness, and we are building more than 1,000 new homes a year especially for local people. We are fighting for the infrastructure to go alongside that. As we have local government Ministers present, I give them an extra nudge to fund our much needed second railway station, which would unlock another 10,000 homes that we need.

Essex County Council does excellent work in many regards, especially children’s services. It is the second largest children’s services area in the whole country. Back in 2010, under the Labour Government, it was failing. It is now—since January—ranked outstanding. The investment in children’s services has gone down from £148 million to £118 million, proving that when it comes to running outstanding facilities, money is not always the solution. The solution in this case was to use early intervention and targeted work, and to unlock local partnerships. I urge Members to read the Ofsted report.

Essex County Council is challenged. We have seen a great deal of population growth and increasing demand, particularly for social care. Adult social services make up about 45% of Essex County Council’s spending. Over the next decade, we expect the number of over-80s to rise by two thirds and the number of over-90s to rise by 90%.

We need a new model for funding social services. It is simply not fair that those who win the lifetime lottery and live to be healthy, well and fit in their old age can, when they pass on, leave their assets to those they love; whereas those who become frail—especially those who suffer from dementia—and need care end up losing their assets, and they find that they cannot pass on such gifts to future generations. There have to be fairer models, and I encourage the Government to be brave in looking at different options, including those that work in other countries. I urge them to look at insurance schemes and lifetime saving schemes, and to try to find fairer ways to solve the problem.

I want to discuss dementia, because the great fact that we are living longer means that more people suffer from dementia. Some 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, and the cost of caring for them is £26 billion a year, but we know that that figure will rise. Across the world, there are 47 million people with dementia, and it is estimated that by 2050 the number will have risen to 135 million.

I am very glad that the Chair of the excellent Science and Technology Committee is in his seat. Along with a Conservative colleague, he and I spent the morning representing the Committee with the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK at the Dementia Research Institute, which is the world’s biggest single investment in dementia research. It was a great pleasure to meet those involved, who told us about the work that is being done to improve the day-to-day life of those with dementia. The UK leads in areas such as technological aids to make living with dementia easier, and it is doing great work on changing society’s view and understanding of people with dementia. We learned that 500 people a week are becoming dementia friends, which is great.

We also learned that much more can be done to understand dementia and work towards a cure. In recent years, there have been 3.4 million publications on cancer in the UK alone. By comparison, there have been just 170,000 on dementia. In other words, for every piece of research into dementia, there have been 20 on cancer, even though dementia is the cause of far more death and suffering in later years. The amount of research is increasing, and it has resulted in a much greater understanding of what causes dementia. We understand that the causes start decades before the symptoms appear. To understand what causes dementia in somebody in their 70s, we need to understand the changes that start happening in our 40s and 50s.

We also heard that the UK is leading the world in research. We were told that a third of all dementia may be preventable, provided that it can be detected early. Early intervention can be used to understand the triggers and how to prevent it. As well as looking into how we care for those who are old and frail and need support, let us keep up the research into how we prevent that need.