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Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.

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Westminster Eye: An insight into the week of politics 27 February - 2 March

Monday 27 February

Paul Maynard MP received a reply from the Minister to his question on what proportion of the Department of Health expenditure was spent on services for the elderly in the latest period for which figures are available. In his reply Paul Burstow said that around 40% NHS acute, mental health, primary care and prescribing by general practitioner is estimated to be spent on people aged 65 years and above. Information by age is not held centrally for other expenditure by the NHS. In addition, adult social care is funded by local authorities, through a combination of central Government grant funding and locally-raised council tax. He added that provisional data for 2010-11 shows that local authority net expenditure on adult social care for people aged 65 and over was £7.42 billion. This represents 50.8% of total net expenditure on adult social care.

Simon Hart MP asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office what estimate he has made of the number of people who are full-time volunteers; and how many such people volunteer for 35 or more hours per

Nick Hurd replied saying that data from the 2009-10 Citizenship Survey suggests that approximately 163,000 people in England and Wales volunteered for 140 hours or more in the four weeks prior to interview-equivalent to 35 hours a week or more. Data are not available to determine if such individuals were full-time volunteers.

Andrew Lansley laid before Parliament the Government response to the House of Commons Health Committee's report Public Expenditure.The Committee's report was published on 24 January 2012.

In its statement the Government said that the modernisation and efficiency challenges it is seeking across health and social care are exceptional; ones that are vitally necessary to secure sustainable and improving services. They are also inextricably linked and mutually supportive. These changes are critical to bringing about a modern care system that is fit to deliver the high quality, responsive, personalised services wanted by people today. As a part of these reforms, the Government is protecting funding for the NHS and allocating additional funding for social care.

Tuesday 28 February

On Tuesday Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen received a reply to her question which asked the Government what steps it is taking to reduce the burden of administration associated with volunteering. Lord Wallace of Saltaire replied saying that the Government is determined to make it easier to volunteer and run civil society organisations by cutting bureaucracy. The Government had set up the Civil Society Red Tape Taskforce, chaired by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, to identify what stops people giving more time and money to civil society organisations. Their report Unshackling Good Neighbours, makes 17 major recommendations that we are taking forward and Lord Hodgson will review progress in implementing them in May.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen had asked a further question over making it easier for employers to release their employees to assist in the voluntary organisations in which they have an interest.

The Baroness Wilcox said that the Giving White Paper made clear that the Government fully supports and encourages organisations making time available for employees to volunteer. The Government has also made its ambitions clear with their commitment to turn the Civil Service into a civic service, supporting civil society organisations. This will encourage civil servants to give time by providing them with opportunities to use their skills and using volunteering as a means of learning and professional development both in terms of gaining new skills and experiences and also better understanding of the impact of government policies on the civil society sector. She added that under Every Business Commits, the Government is challenging businesses to take action on priorities including promoting employee well-being and engaging with communities, with Government committing in return to encourage enterprise and reduce red tape to create the best conditions for businesses to succeed.

Wednesday 29 February

On Wednesday Hilary Benn MP asked the Communities Minister what the average charge was for Meals on Wheels in each English local authority in each year since 2000. A reply is awaited.

Tracey Crouch MP asked the Health Minister what assessment he has made of the quality of annual reviews for patients with dementia and what measures he is taking to ensure that people diagnosed with dementia who are receiving anti-psychotic medication receive regular reviews of their progress. A reply is awaited.

Thursday 1 March

On Thursday during the House of Lords debate entitled “International Women’s Day - Motion to take note” on 1 March Baroness Royall of Blaisdon included WRVS in her closing address for the opposition.

"Earlier this week I was privileged to attend a reception for the WRVS which now has 40,000 volunteers but needs more. When one thinks of the WRVS, meals on wheels and hospital cafes and trolleys come to mind. These are important tasks but the WRVS does so much more to help older people stay independent at home and active in their community"

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Westminster Eye: An insight into the week of politics 14 - 18 November

This week was cut short by a brief Recess with Members of both Houses returning on 21 November. Normally this is the time for the Queens Speech detailing the legislative programme for the coming session. But there is no Queens speech this year.

Shadow Social Care Minister Liz Kendall MP received an answer to her question on how many unplanned hospital admissions for people aged 65 years and over there were, broken down by (a) local authority and (b) NHS commissioner in each month in (i) 2008-09, (ii) 2009-10, (iii) 2010-11 and (iv) 2011-12. The Minister Paul Burstow said that the Department does not have data in the format requested but does have data with a count of Finished Admission Episodes (FAEs) where the age of the patient is 65 or over; by month, primary care trust of responsibility and local authority of residence for the years 2008-09 to 2011-12. Data for 2011-12 are provisional and only for the months April to June inclusive.

He added that it should be noted that FAEs is not a count of patients as a patient may have been admitted more than once during the period stated. The footnotes contain further information which should be used when interpreting the data. The detailed information has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

15 November
Hilary Benn MP asked the Secretary of State for Health how many people were waiting to be discharged from hospital because of a shortage of community care facilities in each local authority area in the latest period for which figures are available. Paul Burstow responded by saying that in England in September 454 people were awaiting a care package in their own home and 130 people community equipment and adaptations. The figures for each local area had been placed in the Commons library.

"That this House is aware of the vital importance of the provision of social care for people suffering from dementia, currently estimated as affecting around 750,000 people in the UK, two-thirds of whom live in the community; recalls the findings of the Dilnot Commission in July which included within it a recommendation to create a fairer funding mechanism for social care, rather than the current system which leaves tens of thousands of families to pay all of their loved ones' care costs whilst they themselves suffer this terrible terminal health condition; praises the work of the Alzheimer's Society which has campaigned for many years to end such dementia tax; and urges the Government to hear its call for them to engage in urgent cross party talks to explore how a fairer, transparent system can be developed and then established."

Commons Early Day Motion tabled by Sir Alan Meale MP
15 November
Chris Skidmore MP asked how much his Department spent on dementia research in each financial year since 1997-98. The Minister provided a lengthy table but the figures for recent years are 2007-08 £22.2m, 2008-09 £18.4m, 2009-10 £12.7m, 2010-11 £18.6m.

Baroness Smith of Basildon received answers to the first two written questions that she had tabled the previous week. The Baroness had asked what assessment Government had made of the progress made in providing preventative services that overcome social isolation amongst older people following the Healthier Lives Green Paper and the Vision for Social Care. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) said that the department is seeking to collect data around social participation through the 2011-12 Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework indicator, which focuses on enhancing the quality of life for people with care and support needs.

He added that on 16 November 2010, the Government published A Vision for Adult Social Care: Capable Communities and Active Citizens, which sets the context for the future direction of adult social care in England. One of the principles of the vision is preventive strategies, which set out to reduce dependency by promoting stronger and more active communities that enable people to be less isolated and vulnerable.

In addition, the Department's national evaluation of Partnerships for Older People Projects informed councils of the benefits of some services including befriending, which demonstrated health-related quality of life gains for older people.

Baroness Smith of Basildon had also asked the Government what discussions they have had with a view to introducing an impact test to examine the effects of policy proposals on those aged over 65 following the Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons on 6 September.

Earl Howe replied that the department has not recently had any discussions on a separate impact assessment process for older people. However, age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 which confers a duty on public authorities, including the Department of Health, to pay due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, advance equality of opportunity and promote good community relations in everything they do. Such work may not always take the form of a discrete impact assessment but understanding the potential impact of departmental policies on older people is inherent in the public sector equality duty in Section 149(1) of the aforementioned Act.

Government is committed to addressing the issues that affect older people. The Department for Work and Pensions leads on strategy for our ageing society and helps to co-ordinate this agenda across government. The Minister of State for Pensions and the Minister of State for Care Services jointly co-chair the UK Advisory Forum on Ageing. The forum provides an opportunity to bring together the representative views of older people and provides advice to Ministers across government on the steps that it and its partners need to take to improve well being and independence in later life.

The department is currently running an engagement exercise on the reform of social care, "Caring for Our Future" until 2 December. Through this process, the Government is inviting views from a wide range of interested people and groups, including people who use care and support services, carers, local councils, care providers, and the voluntary sector.

Baroness Greengross tabled a series of questions relating to the incidence of dementia. Replies are expected shortly.

Posted by Steve Smith, Public Affairs Officer at 10:00 Wednesday, 23 November 2011.

Labels: Unplanned hospital admissions, dementia research spend, early Day Motion, Sir Alan Meale, community care, adult social care, caring for our future