When you see reports in the BBC stating that “Public services like adult social care could ‘collapse’ unless councils get new funding powers”, or that councils were on a “cliff-edge” owing to cuts, and that “some services would struggle to survive” if funding policy doesn’t change, it’s going to ring some alarm bells.
We all know that austerity has hit the country hard, and that the government intends to continue making cuts should they remain in control of the public purse strings after the elections this year. And no matter whether you are warmed by the news that the British economy is now finally on the up and is actually stronger than many others in Europe, it’ll no doubt be on your mind how all these cuts are going to affect the elderly care of friends or relatives – and even yourself if you are of that demographic.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the funds to pay for elderly care at home – still fewer appreciate just how affordable nursing at home, live-in care or homecare can actually be. There is definitely a knowledge gap which makes more people than necessary reliant on an obviously struggling public healthcare system. So what can be done about this?
Well, according to the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance, additional funding for elderly care could come through decentralising control over the use of taxes – giving local authorities the freedom to allocate funds collected by them to those services in most need locally. Nobody wants taxes to go up or cuts to bite even harder than they are doing currently, so this commission, made up of business, finance and public sector experts feels that it may be as ‘simple’ (I’m being ironic of course because nothing is ever simple in public sector elderly care funding) as giving those who know the local area’s needs best control over how locally collected taxes are shared out.
However this or the next government hopes to turn public sector elderly care around, I hope that it comes about quickly because it is this crisis in care home room availability that’s having a knock-on effect on the NHS and other services. And, as long-time contributors to economy, society and family we owe it to our older generation to make sure that when it’s time for them to stop looking after us and for us to start looking after them, we have the facilities, the funds and carers to ensure them the comfort and care we would wish for them.