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My Lords, I propose to speak about social care for disabled and older people, which of course impacts on their health and well-being. This area has been deeply neglected in recent years. We are, sadly, looking at a series of failures in this sector: failure to invest in older and disabled people’s participation in, and contributions to, families and communities; failure to make decisions about how to secure long-term funding; and failure to create a positive narrative around the fact that we are living longer—I know I do. The result is poor-quality and inadequate support services which we would not want for ourselves or those we love.
Users of care and support services are deeply fed up with successive Governments’ “all talk and no action” approach to social care reform, and the general reference to social care in the Queen’s Speech adds little to restore public trust. It is not acceptable in a modern society, and as one of the largest economies in the world, to limit social care to life-and-limb services. This is about all of us: our families and ourselves, not mythical “others”.
While we need the Government finally to act on ensuring sufficient investment in social care, which is so important to the health and well-being of our society, we must equally look beyond government to bring about the transformative change necessary to reshape care and support. Many people and groups are trying to take action to make things a great deal better. Their common aim—our common aim—is summed up by Social Care Future, a network of people receiving, providing and commissioning social care. As it says:
“We all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us. That’s the #socialcarefuture we seek”,
not life-and-limb services.
Government financial investment to achieve this is critical, but it has to be done differently. Currently, it is targeted at propping up creaking services that most of us fear having to use. As noble Lords know, my area of greatest knowledge is disabled people, who account for 50% of social care expenditure, yet they say this does not give them what they want or need to live and participate effectively in the community. This group is completely unable to accumulate wealth to pay for their own care, yet Governments continue to raid their meagre benefits and entitlements, which they need to survive, for this purpose. This is wholly unfair, counterproductive and highly questionable financially.
Only person-centred support to live as others do, funded through central taxation, will break the cycle of fear and inaction. There is great public support for this. I and others are proposing new ways to invest in support for people of all ages. We must move away from institutional practices by shifting power to people and communities. We must recognise the case for realistic investment in a fundamental right to independent living, as argued for by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, a growing movement of disabled people’s organisations.
This year, the Independent Living Strategy Group, which I am privileged to chair, will embark on an independent inquiry into current support for disabled people, with recommendations for progressive change. This will underpin a Private Member’s Bill which I hope to table in the near future. I intend to call it the “access to living Bill”, because, after all, that is what everybody wants and deserves. They just want a life: they do not want a service and they do not want to live by handout to survive. They want a life and they want to participate. I will look for support for the Bill from the Government and from across the House, because I believe that this is the new future that we want for older and disabled people.