The UK’s broken social care system is not fit for purpose. As polling day approaches, Marion Child Alzheimer’s Society Head of Region (South West) outlines why the next government must make reforming it a priority.
It has been dubbed the ‘Brexit Election’ with the vast majority of those questioned citing it as the most important issue facing the country today.
And it’s fair to assume that whatever form the next government takes, the conclusion of this long running and bitter saga will be its main goal.
But Brexit is not the only game in town. Looming large in the shadows is an issue every bit as important – and one that can no longer be ignored by those in power.
As December 12 draws ever closer – and despite the seemingly all-encompassing withdrawal from the EU debate – social care reform has found its way to the very top of the domestic agenda thanks, in no small part, to the campaigning work of Alzheimer’s Society.
It’s about time the issue received the attention it merits. For far too long, successive governments have kicked this deepening crisis into the long grass.
Now, promises to tackle it once and for all are being made by the main parties.
But promises can be broken, as those campaigning for a major overhaul of our social care system know to their cost, having seen a long-awaited Green Paper on the issue delayed for a fifth time earlier this year.
Alzheimer’s Society is determined to prevent this from happening again. That is why we are turning up the volume on the social care crisis with the launch our own Election Manifesto – Demanding Action on Dementia.
It’s part of our on-going Fix Dementia Care campaign, and we are calling on the next government commit to three key actions:
Radically reform social care to address the specific needs of people living with dementia, ending the daily injustice they, and their families, face in trying to access the good quality care to which they are entitled.
Ensure people living with dementia can participate in communities on the same basis as everyone else – feeling safe, included and respected.
Close the research funding gap between dementia and other diseases to ensure new treatments and life-changing care interventions are available.
There are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, a figure that is set to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.
In the South West alone, the number of people living with the condition is set to increase by more than 41% over the next decade, from its current figure of 90,000 to 127,200 according to a recent study released by the London School of Economics and Political Science. In the Cornwall Unitary authority area, their figures predict a rise from over 9,700 people today to 13,900 people by 2030.
Behind every one of those statistics are heart-breaking stories of families whose lives have been shaken to the core by a condition that is, without doubt, the biggest health and social care issue facing the country.
Someone develops dementia in the UK every three minutes. It is our biggest killer, and the only condition out of the top 10 causes of death that has no treatment to slow down its progress, let alone cure it.
People diagnosed with dementia are forced to fund their own care if it is deemed to be ‘social care’ such as help at home with dressing, eating, washing and using the toilet or if they need to live in a care home.
Some people qualify for extra support from the NHS to help manage their condition, but this can be complicated and difficult to access.
This means those unfortunate enough to develop dementia face crippling costs – costs that simply don’t apply to people diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, diabetes or countless other health conditions, where treatment is usually available through the NHS. How can this be fair?
Our research has shown that people with dementia typically spend £100,000 on their care, with many forced to sell their homes – an outrage that must be addressed.
We are calling on the next government to commit to universal social care, free at the point of use, including the cost of specialist dementia care, which is on average 15% more expensive than standard social care.
Dementia also has a huge impact on the economy. It’s estimated that businesses in England lost £3.2billion last year due to the dementia care crisis, with more than 112,000 people leaving their jobs to care for a loved one with the condition.
Alzheimer’s Society is calling on the new government to set aside more funding for social care.
We must transform the nation into a place where people living with dementia are treated the same as those with other health conditions.
We need guarantees that the cost of care does not fall to individuals and their families, ending the injustice of people being forced to sell their homes.
And much more must be spent on research. Dementia costs the UK economy an estimated £34.7billion a year, yet the latest figures show that UK government investment in dementia research is around £85million a year, only about 0.25% of the overall cost.
Alzheimer’s Society is calling for research investment to be trebled to £250m a year by 2025 – to close the gap between funding into dementia research and other diseases such as cancer.
The next government must, therefore, grasp the social care nettle. Like Brexit, it is an issue that isn’t going to go away.
Until it does, Alzheimer’s Society will be here to champion the rights of everyone affected by the condition. Unite with us and join the campaign at alzheimers.org.uk/fix