Care (Older People)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:16 pm on 6th September 2011.

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Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow The Minister of State, Department of Health 12:16 pm, 6th September 2011

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Main. I congratulate my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch on securing the debate. The speeches and interventions have demonstrated why we need Back Benchers such as my hon. Friend to raise such subjects, which Parliament has not debated enough over the past 10 or 15 years. That may be one reason why, as several hon. Members have said, social care has historically been the poor relation of the NHS and inadequately funded relative to the NHS.

We should not delude ourselves that many of the problems and pressures that have been amply and passionately described in our debate have emerged in the last 12 months. Indeed, if one takes a run through Hansard reports of the past 30 or 40 years, one sees that they have been raised previously. I do not say that to excuse the obligation that rests with the present Government to address the issues, but I ask hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that we should come to the debate with humility and recognition that past responsibilities were perhaps not fully met.

Attention was drawn to the fact that by 2033 almost a quarter of the population will be over 65. Indeed, some parts of the country have already reached that proportion—my hon. Friend Anne Marie Morris referred to the situation in Devon. I agree entirely with the point made by my hon. Friend Gareth Johnson that all too often in these debates we use the language of time bombs and consternation instead of celebrating not just the successes of our health and social care system in supporting vulnerable and frail people, but the contribution that, in turn, older people make in our society, often to their fellow citizens. We should do more of that and I want to make sure that we do.

It is worth saying that if the NHS and social care are to cope, some systems and processes need to change; I will say more about that shortly, but it is also necessary for older people themselves and their families and carers to call the shots about the decisions that affect their lives, so that the system can provide the care that people want, need and feel comfortable with. The whole agenda of personalising services so that people have the resources to be able to make choices and to be in control of those services is important, and the Government are determined to turn that ambition into reality.

Let me say something about the coalition’s commitment to see health and social care provided in ways that achieve better outcomes and deliver more personalised services. A thread running through the comments from hon. Members during the debate is the role of integration, which is a key element in realising better outcomes and better quality in the system. Integration is about care services working together in the interests of people and the local populations they serve, and about learning from one another’s experience and ending up with care and support that is of higher quality, safer, and more comforting than ever before.

We also need a sea change in the nature of the working relationships at local level, so that closer working relationships between local authorities and the NHS become the norm rather than the exception. That is one reason why we have made extra funding available. We can debate and will continue to debate in the House whether that funding is adequate, and I have no illusions about the challenges facing local authorities, but the Government have done much to ensure that local authorities have the resources to address them.

NHS funding that goes directly to local authorities for measures that support social care and benefit health will rise to £1 billion per year by 2014-2015. It is the first time that any Government have made such a significant transfer of resources. This year, £650 million has been allocated to PCTs and transferred to local authorities to invest in social care services. That will benefit health and have an overall impact on well-being. I am under no illusions about the interdependencies between health and social care services to which many hon. Members have alluded during the debate. One must look at both parts of the system to understand and mitigate the impact.

I look forward, as ever, to the next chapter of the report on social care by Emily Thornberry. From what I see, however, and from discussions I have had, I know that the picture is far from clear; it is mixed and different authorities are adopting different approaches to the challenges they face in meeting the Government’s deficit reduction targets. Some local authorities are being smart in the ways they confront those challenges and are looking at using telecare and telemedicine, investing in relevant services, and redirecting resources into earlier interventions that can make a big difference up stream. Other authorities—the ones we tend to hear about in debates such as this—are adopting more of a slash and burn approach and tightening eligibility without thinking through the consequences of such decisions and the impact on services. We need to challenge such actions not only in the Chamber but in our constituencies as constituency MPs. These pressures on the system are not new and we have seen such features for many years. Indeed, the vast majority of local authorities already used substantial need as a basis for eligibility and access to services before this Government came into office.

The £650 million that is being transferred to local authorities from the NHS is on top of the £530 million from the Department for Communities and Local Government that will go directly to social service departments.