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In June this year, it will be 10 years since the Dilnot commission began its work to look at long-term funding of the care system. That anniversary also marks 10 years of Tory austerity and 10 years of abject failure on social care, during which time the cuts to local council budgets, combined with the growth of our older population and an increase in the number of working-age adults living with support needs has created a full-blown crisis in our social care system. It is a crisis that is being lived out day-to-day by the 1.5 million people who are eligible for support but not receiving any and by the families fighting for the support that their loved ones need. It is an utter disgrace that people with learning disabilities and autistic people are trapped in hospitals and care staff face intolerable pressure for too little pay. Careworkers are low-paid, but they are not low-skilled. The crisis in our care systems will be deepened by the loss of highly- skilled workers from overseas as a consequence of the entirely misplaced points-based immigration system the Government have just announced.
I was a member of the Select Committee on Housing, Communities and Local Government in the last Parliament, and it was striking that the number of councils, of all political persuasions, including Tory-run county councils such as Kent and Somerset, describing a crisis in their ability to deliver on meeting the social care needs of their local communities with the resources they had available kept growing with every call for evidence the Committee put out. Faced with this crisis, affecting millions of families every day, the Tory manifesto simply promised cross-party talks. We have had a decade of cross- party and independent work on this issue, by Select Committees in the Commons and Lords, by Sir Andrew Dilnot, by many different all-party groups and by the Local Government Association. The challenge of social care is quantifiable and quantified: £3.5 billion just to meet current needs; and more to deliver a system that can guarantee dignity for everyone who needs support. The menu of options to provide this funding is also known. The Government cannot keep prevaricating. Now is the time to bite the bullet and act to solve the crisis.
As co-chair of the all-party group on adult social care, I attended a meeting yesterday with about 150 stake- holders from the social care sector: social workers; carers; and people receiving care, who are experts by experience. We heard about many examples of good practice in care. There are carers going above and beyond the call of duty every single day to deliver excellent person-centred care, but we also heard about the intolerable pressures. Where social workers are assessing someone in the certain knowledge that the funding is not there to deliver the support they need, that is an unacceptable and unsustainable compromise of their professional practice, yet it happens every day. The care sector is desperate to get beyond the conversation on funding to a discussion about the detail of a care system that can deliver dignity and the highest quality of life for everyone who needs support; and how we make co-design and co-production the basis of all social care delivery, recognising that people who need care and support are as diverse as the wider population at large.