Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:17 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 6:17 pm, 24th April 2019

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Mr Sweeney, who is a tireless and passionate campaigner for his constituency—and a member of the wonderful 2017 intake.

Areas with the greatest needs, the lowest tax base and the least other resources seem to be suffering a much greater reduction than their wealthier counterparts, and Hull is no exception. I am not the only one saying that; the National Audit Office is saying it, too. The NAO has produced powerful information showing a disproportionate impact on Hull, which is creating the need for painful decisions. The situation is compounded by reductions in the central funding on which Hull relies for 81% of its budget and which it is unable to replace through local taxation. To illustrate, a local tax increase of 1% in Hull raises only £2.90 per head, whereas a local tax increase of 1% in the City of London raises £7.08 per head. Our situation is completely different. Hull, which is reliant on central Government, receives less money than ever from central Government.

Even though statistics are important, and much of our debate focuses on statistics and the percentage loss for each local area, we are forgetting the human element. To be honest, the people at the heart of it who are being affected do not care which Government introduced a measure; they do not care whose fault it is. They do not like politicians who point fingers at each other and say, “It wasn’t us. It was you.” What these people care about is what is happening to them there and then, on the ground.

I would like to talk about a couple I met recently, and to protect their anonymity, I will refer to them as Lily and Paul. Paul came to see me at my constituency office, and he was extremely upset and quite distressed. He told me about his wife. They were quite a young couple, only in their early 50s, but his wife had developed tumours on her spine. The tumours had appeared from nowhere, and no one had any idea she was ill. It started with back ache, and she ended up in hospital, needing to have the tumours operated on.

From that moment, her husband became her carer and had to do everything for her. They went from having a fit and active life, both in work, to him looking after his wife, who was bedbound. He was practically at breaking point as he told me how they met when they were 14 years old. She was the only woman he had ever been in love with, and he still loved her, even though at that moment she was lying in bed in their house unable to leave the bedroom or get down the stairs because occupational therapists had not been round to install a handrail, and they could not get a stairlift fitted because it was the wrong kind of staircase. She had been discharged from hospital without a care plan or an adult social care package available. All she was doing was lying in their bed.

Paul brought his daughter round to look after his wife so that he could come and tell me about the problems they were facing. Unsurprisingly, he said that she was suffering problems with her mental health. I said, “Well, of course; I would suffer problems with my mental health if I was unable to leave my bed and was left there in constant pain.” She was left in pain from the operation on the tumours on her spine, and the drugs were making her drowsy and incoherent.

To make matters worse, the Department for Work and Pensions informed them that she needed to attend a healthcare assessment—a woman who was bedbound, having had operations on her spine. He was dealing with this on a day-to-day basis, while seeing the woman he had loved from the age of 14 and still deeply loved in such pain and such a desperate situation. Eventually the DWP relented, and someone came to do an assessment of her. Paul said that his wife could not answer the questions properly because the amount of opiates she was on to deal with her pain meant that she would not fully understand all the questions, but he was told by the person doing the assessment that, as her husband, he should not be answering for her and should allow her to answer the questions herself, even though she barely understood what was being said.

He came into my constituency office just yesterday to tell me that his wife has not been declared sick enough to qualify for the mobility component of the benefit. He has been left unable to work, and his wife, who he is desperately in love with, is unable to get the support she needs and is being turned down for enhanced benefits. Goodness me! How sick does someone have to be to get enhanced benefits if they are on drugs that make them incoherent and are laid in their bed, unable to move? I asked Paul, “What about you? Are you getting any respite or care?” He said, “I can’t, because what happens to her if I become ill? What happens to her if I’m not there? She doesn’t fully understand because she’s on pain medication.”

This is what people are facing. When we hear from those on the Front Benches, let us not point fingers at each other and say, “Your Government did this,” and, “Your Government did that.” Let us look at what is happening to people like this right now. Let us look at the fact that life expectancy is dropping in my constituency. Tell me then that this Government’s reforms have been successful and that it is not time to change. Do not give me a quote about the amount of money. Tell me about the people whose lives are being changed because they are not getting the support they need. Until I see a real difference on the ground, all the rest of it is just spin. Please, Minister, come to the Dispatch Box and tell me you have listened and that people like Paul and Lily will get the support they need and not be left to suffer any longer.