One of the many tragedies of the Covid crisis has been seeing so many tens of thousands dying in our care homes. Residents of care homes were let down but so were the hard-working staff who were left, at least initially, without proper protective equipment. Care homes were let down with too little attention from the government when they were told that transmission of Covid was not significant in care homes. The government was horribly wrong.
For years I have believed we need our care services for the elderly and the working-age vulnerable, to be run like the NHS as a National Care Service, free at the point of need and properly integrated with our NHS. It makes sense and works in other countries. Rochdale has probably gone further than many areas in England down this path but we’re not there yet.
Age Concern is one of the foremost UK charities in providing services for our elderly and does a great job. But Age Concern also campaigns for change, changes that can make life better for the elderly and others who need social care. So I very warmly welcome their recent petition which was delivered to Prime Minister Johnson reminding him that he promised to “fix” social care.
Over 100,000 people signed it, although I think many more of us would support it and I’ve had many constituents who signed it, asking for my support and that of the Labour Party.
One of the strengths of the NHS which has kept it safe, even at the height of the Thatcher privatisation years, was the knowledge that the public overwhelmingly supports and supported our NHS as it is, funded through general taxation and free at the point of use.
It’s really important with an issue like improving social care which has now been talked about over too many years, that we build a national consensus over how we create our National Care Service. But some things are obvious. The first is that we’ve got to fund social care properly – it’s grossly underfunded now because of government cuts – and we’ve got to pay and train those who provide care in an acceptable way.
In the end and similar to health, a National Care Service is a form of collective insurance, some of us will need it, some won’t, but it’s worth paying collectively so that if you or your loved ones need it, it’s there for you. Sensible and civilised.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 8 August 2020.