Care (Older People)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:19 am on 6th September 2011.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Housing) 11:19 am, 6th September 2011

I accept that some of the issues that Dilnot identified will have to be worked through, but I think that there is a broad welcome for Dilnot ending what has caused so much grief in the past. People have had to sell their homes. People who spent their lives hoping to pass on wealth to their children have found in the twilight of their years that that is not possible. We can have an intelligent debate about the detail of Dilnot, but the cap is welcome. The sooner we implement Dilnot, the better. The problem is that, even if everyone gets a move on, that might be some years away, in which case we must address the here and now during the next two to three years.

WRVS has done excellent work in the field, and has said rightly that the Government must both address the adequacy of the funding that they have made available and ensure that it is wisely spent and properly monitored. The inescapable reality is that the consequences of the cuts to public expenditure are devastating for the most vulnerable in our society. To use the city that I represent as an example, Birmingham city council has cut £212 million from its budget this year—the largest cut in local government history. It cut £51 million from the social care budget, rising to £118 million over three years, and consequently sought to remove substantial need provision for 4,100 people. The council was prevented from going down that path only by a judicial review taken by four brave families, whose cases were heart-breaking.

I have seen some of the consequences in my own experience. One example is an absolutely wonderful couple, Faith and Frank Bailey. Faith Bailey is terminally ill. She left hospital some months ago, so that she could spend the remainder of her time on earth with her husband. They are a devoted couple; it is wonderful to see them holding hands at the age of pushing 80. The problem was that when she left hospital, her night-time care was restricted to two nights a week. She struggled as a consequence, and the impact on her husband was devastating. He was becoming increasingly exhausted, and neither of them could cope. The situation was causing them great distress. I am pleased to say that they are now in the admirable New Oscott village, where they will be cared for properly. However, those decent people who built Birmingham and Britain looked forward, in the twilight of their years, to being together for the remainder of her time, and to see them suffer in such a way was heart-breaking.

This is not just about the human consequences. As the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford was right to highlight, it is also about the financial folly of failing to recognise that not investing might cost more in the medium to long term. The King’s Fund report charts what happens in social care as a result: the number of people admitted to hospital rises. I am sure that we have all seen that in our respective constituencies. I remember one example in the constituency next door to mine in Birmingham. A fine young man who was seriously assaulted spent 18 months in hospital as the consequence of a failure to provide a social care package. After he had spent just over 12 months in hospital, he was told that he could leave if an adequate social care package were provided for him, but because it was not, he stayed in hospital. He was desperate to go home and his family wanted him back, and it was costing the national health service £2,400 a week in net additional costs to support him. That cannot be right. The impact on the national health service is an issue.

To give another example from Birmingham, all parties supported building 10 centres, such as the admirable Perry Tree centre, across Birmingham to provide intermediate care as a bridge between leaving hospital and going back home or into a home. Perry Tree is outstanding, and the atmosphere is wonderful. However, sadly, no more centres will be built. That will mean bed blocking on a massive scale in the national health service.