A social care Christmas Carol: Could ghostly apparitions do for our older people what they did for Bob Cratchit?

The general election is over and the lights and cameras have been packed away.

A sombre fact remains: out of sight, away from the cameras and the lights, 81 older people a day (3 an hour) die waiting for social care. Age UK research has found that around 78,000 older people in England have died waiting for care since a Green Paper was promised in July 2017. A report by the BBC last month gives one of the clearest pictures of the current situation. 

It is not for the want of lobbying. Many groups, including cross-party MPs and the Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords, have done their best to push for a funding plan to end the crisis. Among them is the National Care Forum (NCF), the body for not-for-profit organisations in the care and support sector. In a recent blog post Vic Rayner, NCF executive director, asks what it might take to kick-start the process and finds her mind wandering to Charles Dickens’ classic tale:

“…the advent of a new PM might be just the moment for some ghostly intervention”.

She imagines a visitation where the first apparition takes the prime minister to a moribund past of discussions, committees and the Care Act 2014, ending with rows of people sitting on benches facing each other, doing nothing.

Another phantom, a guide to the present-day, has a more urgent feel. He whizzes the PM from home to home,

“seeing people struggling to cope, carers pressed beyond measure, workers racing from home to home with barely time to connect with people, MPs surgeries pressed full of people unable to access services because of escalating eligibility, people isolated and alone, adults unable to live independent and fulfilling lives. Alongside this sits a revered star, the NHS, where behind the glitter of the shining name, the PM is shown with unerring insight that the challenges for people, workforce and funders are a mirror of their symbiotic social care twin.”

The PM has seen – but how will he react? 

“The stories have been told, the impact on lives writ large before them”, ends Vic Rayner. “The tipping point has come and the fulcrum lies with them.”

Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” We now have a secure government with a majority that means it can get things done. We can be the lever that tips it in the right direction – each one of us adding a weight that moves it. We can talk, email and write to our Members of Parliament until a social care plan is produced that works; if Japan and other countries can do it, why can’t we?

Louise Morse

Louise Morse is media and external relations manager for 212-year-old Christian Charity, the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. Founded in 1807, it provides practical and spiritual support for older people in housing and residential care, and shares its knowledge with faith groups and churches.

Contact: louise.morse@pilgrimsfriend.org.uk, 0300 303 1431, 075785 539539.


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