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Social Care in England: Older People

Question

  1. Baroness Wheeler

    Asked by

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to Age UK’s report on the state of social care in England The Health and Care of Older People in England 2017.

  2. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord O'Shaughnessy) (Con)

    My Lords, social care is a priority for this Government. That is why the Chancellor announced that local authorities in England will receive an extra £2 billion for social care in the next three years. This funding will allow councils to support more people, sustain a diverse market and ease pressures on the NHS.

  3. Baroness Wheeler (Lab)

    My Lords, before I respond, on behalf of the whole House I congratulate Dame Vera Lynn on her 100th birthday. I was not born during the war but as a post-war child I remember how people spoke and felt about her, and I send her our warm thanks.

    Back to business. The Age UK report gives a very sobering picture of the scale of the unmet demand and likely future demand for social care, and the Minister knows that the extra £2 billion he spoke of spread over the next three years is the shortest of short-term solutions. I want to focus on the report’s assessment that the number of older people with unmet social care needs—defined as whether someone can carry out everyday activities such as washing, dressing, eating and using the toilet—has now grown to 1.2 million. This is an 18% increase since last year and nearly a 50% increase since 2010. It means that one in eight older people is living with some level of unmet need regarding vital everyday tasks. Can the Minister confirm that the Government’s Green Paper will acknowledge this level of demand and need, and that their long-term funding solutions will have to address this issue, as well as the provision of long-term care?

  4. Lord O'Shaughnessy

    The noble Baroness is quite right that there is a growing need for care for older people because of our ageing and growing population. I am sure she welcomes the additional funding announced in the Budget. It brings to over £9 billion the additional funding announced since 2015 for social care for the next three years, and that will make a big difference to meeting the kinds of care needs that she is talking about. She talked about the difference between the short term and the long term. That is why the other crucial part of the Budget announcement concerned the Green Paper. This will be ambitious in scope, with the intention of creating a fairer and more sustainable system of the kind I am sure she wants to see.

  5. Lord Watts (Lab)

    My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government’s decision to cut spending to local authorities’ care services has created this crisis?

  6. Lord O'Shaughnessy

    Much more funding is now going into the social care system to reflect the additional needs of the ageing population. I am looking forwards in thinking about the extra £9 billion that will be provided. We also have over 150,000 more care workers helping people in the system, whether in residential care homes and nursing homes or at home through domiciliary care.

  7. Baroness Brinton (LD)

    My Lords, after the publication of the Dilnot commission report nearly six years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, in another role, and the then Chancellor congratulated the commission on its report being a valuable contribution to meeting the long-term challenge of an ageing population. A Green Paper being seen as the beginning of this process six years on is way too late. I repeat the question that I asked the noble Lord last week: can he confirm that the Treasury will specifically be involved in looking at the funding of social care in the future?

  8. Lord O'Shaughnessy

    The noble Baroness is quite right to point out that Dilnot was an important move. It is also fair to say that several Governments, including 13 years of a Labour Government, failed to make any significant progress on this issue. We now have a Green Paper coming forward that is, of course, looking at a sustainable and fair care system, and that must also include looking at funding.

  9. Baroness Greengross (CB)

    My Lords, in spite of what the Minister said, we know that many home care companies say that their biggest problem is the recruitment and retention of carers. The Centre for Workforce Intelligence estimates that at least 2 million more will be needed by 2025, both in home care and in care homes, to cope with the growing demand. Can the Minister tell us how that demand is going to be met?

  10. Lord O'Shaughnessy

    There are two distinct issues here: carers and care workers. To attract more care workers into the system we have introduced the national living wage, which will make a difference in pay for about 900,000 people. The noble Baroness is quite right about carers. There are millions of carers in the country, and we will be bringing forward a carers strategy this year, which will address some of the issues she talks about.

  11. Lord Cormack (Con)

    Will my noble friend first of all associate this side of the House with the warm tributes to Dame Vera Lynn? Will he also tell the House how many care workers are from other countries within the European Union? What are we doing to ensure that we do not have a haemorrhaging of those upon whom our old people depend?

  12. Lord O'Shaughnessy

    I of course associate myself with the comments made by the noble Baroness and apologise for not saying so before. However, I am not going to sing in tribute.

    Around 17% of the care workforce comes from abroad and some 7% of the total are from the EU. The key is to make sure that we have, as far as possible, a care system that attracts workers domestically. We are doing that through improving the training packages available and through better pay under the national living wage, which I mentioned.

  13. Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab)

    My Lords, we heard this morning that the domiciliary care scene is under pressure and many domiciliary care agencies are in fact not tendering for contracts. The care home sector is also under pressure. The people who are not giving up, as the Minister points out, are the family carers—6 million of whom are picking up the pieces from an inadequate social care system. May I press him a little more on the carers strategy, please? It was due to be published last September. Has he a date yet?

  14. Lord O'Shaughnessy

    On care homes, it is true that some care providers are exiting the system. However, there is the same number of beds and, indeed, there are more nursing homes. So there is churn in the system and there are more home care agencies than there were in 2010. I say that only to point out that it is a changing picture. On carers, she is quite right: this is a long overdue strategy and it will be published shortly.

  15. Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)

    My Lords, will the Minister explain why the number of mental health and community nurses in England fell between 2010-11 and 2015-16 by 13% to 33,000, as is clearly outlined in the Age UK report? Further, could he explain the recent significant cut in funding at HEE for post-qualifying nurse education, which includes the preparation of district nurses and advanced mental health nurse practitioners? If more people are to be cared for at home, the false separation between social and health care must be acknowledged, particularly if you want to achieve some of what is outlined in the STPs, which we are going to talk about later.

  16. Lord O'Shaughnessy

    Changes are going on in the nursing workforce and the noble Baroness is right about the cases she points out. It is also worth pointing out that there has been an increase in the number of nurses with general qualifications who are able to work across both health and care, which is important for integration. She will know that there have been changes in the way nursing training has been funded, both in the way she said and in bursaries. However, we are committed to increasing the number of training places available for nurses.