I believe we must all receive dignified care in old age. With an ageing population, this is one of the biggest challenges our country faces.
I support the Government’s commitment to making sure that the most vulnerable in society gain the support they need. While it is important to note that more than 4 of every 5 people in care receive care from good and outstanding organisations, it is clear that more needs to be done to tackle this serious challenge – crucially by securing a long term funding solution. The Prime Minister has spoken of his determination to tackle this, stating in his first speech as Prime Minister that “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared, to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”.
The Government is currently producing a Social Care Green Paper, which will consider a range of proposals to improve social care, as well as funding options to ensure our social care system is able to meet the needs of our ageing society and is placed on a sustainable footing for the long term. However, the Conservative manifesto was clear that that nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it.
In the meantime, local authorities have had greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so they can choose to raise extra money, as well as retain savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million. In the Spending Round in September, an extra £1.5 billion was made available to councils for adult social care services. This funding should be viewed as a significant down payment as we move towards a long term funding solution.
Money alone will not fix the problem and reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. It is vital for us to consider ways of better joining up health and care services, and I am encouraged by the use of the Better Care Fund to assist local government and the NHS with the implementation of integrated health and care services.
I also take the view that progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia is vital and progress is being made. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training. Since 2015, new care staff have been trained to receive the Care Certificate, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and compassionate care, including for those with dementia.
I believe it is important to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition and I am encouraged that there are almost 2.5 million Dementia Friends.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia, which is why the Government has doubled research spending on dementia and remained committed to maintaining the current expenditure on dementia research of at least £60 million a year through to this year. I am encouraged that over £83 million was spent on dementia research by the Government in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available, well in excess of the £60 million target and there is now an improved commitment to double research funding.
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives. The Green Paper will be an important next step in ensuring this and meeting the needs of people with dementia.