Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:25 pm on 25 February 2020.

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Photo of Flick Drummond Flick Drummond Conservative, Meon Valley 6:25, 25 February 2020

I am pleased that Labour has chosen this important debate as one of its Opposition day topics. Social care impacts on people from all backgrounds across the whole country, and it is right that we continue to debate it, so I hope that we can seek some consensus and look for a cross-party solution to this issue, rather than turning it into a political football. It is simply too important for us to treat it in any other way. I also pay tribute to those working in the care system, both paid and unpaid. It can be a tough and rewarding job, as my hon. Friend Paul Bristow said earlier.

One area of agreement should be to welcome the positive steps the Government have taken in recent years, including the more than £10 billion in additional funding since 2017; the introduction and increasing of the social care precept; and the increases in local authority core spending power. Clearly, though, there is much to do, as we have heard this evening. I am glad that my party recognised this fact in its manifesto last year and is committed to a long-term solution. I hope we can all agree that any solution must not be one that forces vulnerable people to sell their homes to pay for care. We cannot overstate the challenge ahead. As the Secretary of State said, in 40 years our population will have grown by 10 million. If that was all working-age people, perhaps it would not be an issue, but over half that growth will be among the over-75s. This group will have more than doubled in size by 2060.

In the same period, the number of over-65s requiring round-the-clock care is expected to rise by a third. Among over-85s, that figure will double. Serious conditions, such as dementia, diabetes and obesity, are also on the rise. They only seek to aggravate the issues, especially among the elderly. The kind of care required by people suffering from these conditions—dementia, in particular—is the most expensive and needs the most intervention. This, though, only covers half the issue. We must remember that social care is about not just the elderly but working-age adults and children. According to the House of Commons Library, local authorities spend as much on under-65s as they do on over-65s. These statistics help to illustrate just how challenging the issue will be and highlight how important it is that we work together to find a long-term solution.

In the meantime, there are small but important steps we can take to help. Lapis Care, a care provider in my constituency, is holding a community care show in Wycombe on 20 March, which I am pleased to promote. It is designed to connect providers with other agencies and with people who may need care in the near future, including healthcare, future planning, community services and much more, such as technology, as my hon. Friend Dean Russell commented on earlier. This sort of approach could lead to greater forward planning and a more joined-up approach in the long run. Too often, people do not think about the care they might need until a crisis strikes. In turn, this can lead to delays in getting the right level of care and means that friends and family need to step in. I pay tribute to the friend of Rachel Hopkins and all those who have stepped in at short notice. Awareness-raising events help future planning, and can also allow care recipients to live in their own homes for longer, much to their benefit. Those are exactly the kind of things that care providers should be doing across the country, and I strongly recommend them.

This is a tough issue that we have to sort out, but I welcome more discussion of it, and I really enjoyed listening to the other contributions to the debate from Members in all parts of the House.