If I had one wish for this year's Queen's Speech, it would be for a Social Care Bill, writes Su Sayer, chief executive of United Response.
The bill should set out a funding blueprint for the future, which makes high quality, skilled support available to all those who need it.
One of the first things that the coalition government did after taking office was to commission economist Andrew Dilnot to lead an independent inquiry into the future of social care funding. Among the Dilnot recommendations was a £1.7 billion increase in funding and a £35,000 cap on the amount that an individual is expected to contribute to their social care costs.
It was hoped that these recommendations would form the basis of the government's much anticipated social care white paper and, in turn, a future bill on social care. However, the white paper has now been delayed several times and many are concerned that this means that the government considers the proposals too costly to implement in the short term, and we are yet to see how this will pan out in terms of future draft legislation.
At a time when the public purse is looking bare, it is understandable that additional spending in any area is viewed with caution. But the problem with this approach where social care is concerned is that failing to invest now could cost us dearly in the future. Already far too many disabled people – particularly those with mild and moderate needs – are not receiving the support they need and are struggling to cope with day-to-day life as a result. Left unmet, these needs will simply escalate, resulting in deteriorating physical and mental health and more costly support being required later on.
The government has recognised that the current social care system needs reforming, but it cannot be done in half measures. Any legislation must be backed by funding, and must address the needs of all social care users, now and in the future. Efficiencies have to be made, but surely a better integration of health and social care services would be the best place to start. This is a once in a generation opportunity. We must get it right.