Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 6:46 pm, 24th April 2019

As the hon. Lady will know, a version of the Green Paper already exists, but that does not mean that we are resting on our laurels while we are waiting for an opportunity to publish it. We are continuing to improve it and evolve it so that when we do publish it—as soon as possible—it will be in the best possible shape.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford also spoke about dementia, and about the importance of investing in dementia care and research. We lead the world in this regard, but we know that there is more to be done if we are to achieve our aspiration of being the best place in the world in which to live with dementia by 2020.

Mary Glindon spoke about some of the difficulties for councils that had been addressed by “working smarter”. She also said that she thought it unfortunate that councils had had to raise council tax in order to have the money that they need. I point out to her gently that the average annual increase in council tax bills from 1997 to 2010 was 5.8% and since 2010 it has been only 2.2%—half what it was under the previous Labour Government.

Vicky Foxcroft spoke about youth violence and the importance of schools, social services, voluntary sector organisations and public health bodies working together through a community-led approach to deal with it. She was absolutely right.

My hon. Friend Dr Johnson spoke about the challenges facing rural communities and the higher costs of delivering things such as domiciliary care. She also spoke about the importance of innovation, quality of care and being outcome-focused. She spoke glowingly about the National Centre for Rural Health and Care.

I always listen very carefully to what Norman Lamb has to say because he has done this job. He spoke about the importance of investing in prevention and said that social care must help people stay independent for longer. He admitted that this job is not quite as easy as it looks and that when he was fulfilling it, there were difficult funding decisions that had to be made. It will be no surprise to him that that continues to be the case and that nothing has changed since he left the role. It is important that he recognises that the challenges continue.

Toby Perkins said that innovative choices have had to be made, that there are better services that cost less in his constituency and that the local authority has had to invest in order to save money. He did make a couple of errors, unfortunately. He mentioned that Labour councils are producing lower council tax, but everybody knows that it is actually Conservative councils that deliver better value for money, with a combination of delivering great quality services while keeping council tax lower than either Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

The hon. Members for Burnley (Julie Cooper), for Bradford West (Naz Shah), for Warrington South (Faisal Rashid), for York Central (Rachael Maskell) and for Peterborough (Fiona Onasanya) all made passionate speeches, mainly about the impact of austerity on areas of deprivation.

Anna Turley spoke about an innovative employment hub that has grown from the loss of the steelworks in her constituency. She spoke about the Care Academy in Cleveland, which is doing great work equipping more people for roles in adult social care. She mentioned how the challenges of caring for an ageing population are being addressed at a local level. I say to her that that is something that will have to be addressed not just at a Government level, but at a local level and a voluntary level. We all have to work together to face these challenges, which are being faced the world over.

Dr Wollaston spoke about how important it is to have cross-party and collaborative work on this issue. We all face difficult choices. For too long, adult social care has been used as a political football. Even today, the Opposition spokeswoman talked about the dementia tax once again. That is very unhelpful language that does not help us come to a meaningful consensus or to work together.